Haggerty: Bruins get back on the beam in St. Louis


Haggerty: Bruins get back on the beam in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS There were plenty of things to be enthused about after the Bruins went into one of the most inhospitable places in the NHL and came away with two points . . . and some regained bravado.

The Blues had gone an amazing 21 straight games without losing in regulation at the Scottrade Center, but the Bruins handed them their first home defeat since Dec. 3 with a 4-2 victory Wednesday night.

It was a great team effort, said Chris Kelly. The goals we scored werent about forcing anything. It was about being in the right spots and capitalizing on our chance. We just kept plugging away and going at them. We stuck with the game plan and didnt get into a situation where we were on the defense all night.

It was a simple return to the Bruins way of doing things.

There were heavy, punishing hits all over the ice, like the thumping David Krejci put on Kris Russell behind the St. Louis net to set up the Bs second goal. There was a goaltending clinic put on by Tim Thomas in the second period, when he stopped everything as the Blues outshot the Bruins 14-4. There was an undeniable emotional spark from Brad Marchand early in the game, when he turned a splendidly clean steal from Kevin Shattenkirk into instant offense.

There werent any passengers on the bus this evening (including the struggling Krejci, who, in his new right-wing role, helped set up goals for linemates Kelly and Milan Lucic). That roster-wide participation made all the difference for a team that came into Wednesday with three regulation wins in its last 18 games.

There was no doubt we played to win and we did the right things, said coach Claude Julien. I dont think one guy was a bigger hero than the other tonight. I thought this was really a good team win.

It goes to show that when our guys really put their minds to it and are determined to be the hardest-working team out there, then they give you a really good chance to win. Tonight as a coach I was really happy with everybodys game. We worked really hard.

It was the first time the Bs scored more than three goals in a game in nearly three weeks, and it helped that they got away from an offensive formula that had failed them during their recent skid. The Bruins didnt pile up an obscene numbers of futile shot attempts from the perimeter, like they did against Minnesota or the Carolina Hurricanes earlier this month. Instead they reverted to form and chose quality scoring chances over shot quantity. Alert, aggressive defensive plays and punishing forechecking created scoring chances that they capitalized on.

A big thing today was getting that first goal. It helped lighten the mood and gave us that confidence, said Lucic. Even though they tied it up later, the first goal gave us that weight off our shoulders that we could go out and get the next one.

Best of all, the Bruins finally returned to form in the third period. After getting outscored by a 5-1 margin in the third period over the previous four games, the Bruins outshot the Blues, prevented them from scoring, and put the finishing touches on sweet victory with a Marchand breakaway goal.

It was a focused 60-minute effort, and it couldnt have looked more different than many of Bostons recent sleepy performances.

All signs point to LeBron James playing against Celtics Tuesday


All signs point to LeBron James playing against Celtics Tuesday

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- A sprained left ankle injury kept LeBron James out of all but one of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason games, and has created a certain element of uncertainty as to whether he’ll play against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night. 
While it has yet to be determined for sure if he’ll play, all indications are that the 15-year veteran will be in the starting lineup as the Cavs kick off their quest to remain the team to beat in the East.

“I never hide stuff from you guys. I really don’t know,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said when asked if James would play against the Celtics. “Depending on how he feels, but I really don’t know.”
However, James looked pretty comfortable shooting the ball after practice with a trio of former Celtics in Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Jeff Green. 
And if you listen to the man who would likely start in James’ place -- J.R. Smith -- there’s nothing to worry about Cavs Nation. 
According to Smith, James will play. 
“We were talking about it, he’s never missed, since he was 8 years old and he started playing, he’s never missed a first game,” Smith said. “I’m preparing for him to play.”
Despite having played more than 41,000 minutes -- only 33 players in NBA history have done so -- James has been one of the game’s more durable players. Last season James he sat out only eight games, and that was the most he has missed in a single season.
 "He's gonna go [Tuesday]," Smith said. "He's gonna go, trust me [on] that. I don't care what he's gotta do, he's gonna play."

Celtics may spend a good part of the year playing 'Getting To Know You'

Celtics may spend a good part of the year playing 'Getting To Know You'

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- It’s hard to believe the Celtics are just hours away from their first regular-season game after having been together for less than a month. 
The quick turnaround isn't all that different than it is for the other 29 teams in the NBA.  But the Celtics, who advanced to the Eastern Conference finals last season, are returning only four players -- and just one starter -- from last year.
Training camp was indeed a crash course called Getting to Know My Teammates 101.
But listening to the players, and coach Brad Stevens, it’s clear there will be lessons learned all season long.


“We have a good feel about how things can look, in the preseason,” said Al Horford. “But it is the preseason. Now it all starts. And right away we face a tough test (in the Cavaliers). But yeah, we’ll start learning even more. We’ve already learned a good amount, but even more when Tuesday rolls around.” 
That's when the Celtics kick off the regular season at Cleveland, which will once again be the favorite to advance to the NBA Finals.
Not too far behind (right behind them, by most accounts) are the Celts, whose season ended in the Conference finals a year ago in a five-game loss to the Cavs.
And the Boston players collectively feel that, despite the short amount of time together, they’ve developed a good sense of chemistry and understanding of how to play effectively with one another. 
Having said that, they also understand that there’s still plenty of room to grow. 
“I don’t expect it to be perfect by any means at all,” said Gordon Hayward. “We’ll definitely have some ups and downs this season. Like I said, one thing is we’ll be able to compete every night. We’ll be able to play together. Those things should stay the same.”
In many respects, the Cavaliers are going through a similar challenge this season.  They've added Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder -- and, when he recovers from his hip injury, Isaiah Thomas -- to a core group that’s led by LeBron James. 
While the increase in talent is undeniable, it’ll take some time before they too develop the kind of on-the-court cohesiveness that comes with time. 
“It’s gonna take time,” Rose said. “It’s going to be a process for everybody to learn their roles, learn everybody’s tendencies, and not think while they’re out there.”
And while there’s a heightened level of uncertainty as to how things will play out with the Celtics this season, Stevens embraces the unknown. 
“I think we're going to be learning about ourselves through the middle of the season,” Stevens said. “I think you do that with every team, but I think that's especially the case now. But this is, I've said this before, like, the first week, the first 10 days, the first few weeks, we have such great and unique challenges that it's gonna be really good for this team regardless."
Stevens added: “Because, to have to go into Cleveland with that level of intensity, with that level of attention, distraction, etc., is great. It's great to experience that in game one. A tremendous learning experience for our group. So, we're preparing to play as well as we can. And we know that they're really, really good. But this is, I'm looking forward to it because I want to find out where we are.”

Hayward added, “It’s a fun first game to start the year. Regardless of what happens, we’ll have some improving to do and things to get better at.”