Bruins

Haggerty: The deal is there, and better get done

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Haggerty: The deal is there, and better get done

Were coming around the bend, and this is getting close to do-or-die time for the NHL.

What we do know: the NHL and NHLPA will be meeting on Wednesday and federal mediators will be involved with the discussion theyre hoping closes the narrow gap between the two sides on CBA length, contract term length and transition plans for the first few seasons under a lowered salary cap.

The meeting might take place in Chicago, or in Washington DC or even in a Tim Hortons within the shadows of the Bell Centre. It definitely wont be in New York City, and it will be away from the media in a quiet atmosphere where both sides can perhaps get some work done without whispers and leaks turning things Phoenix Coyote Ugly.

As one player said last week about a possible finished CBA leading to a 2012-13 NHL season, Ill believe it when I see it.

Thats the prevailing wisdom at this point for a group of NHL players that have been disappointed before in these 87 days of fruitless negotiations. They know that optimism should come along with a helmet and the gnarliest set of shoulder pads you've ever seen.

Things seemed to hit a major speed bump last week when Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman held dueling press conferences that will not be up for submission in the PR Hall of Fame. The NHL essentially said they were taking their ball and going home with the message delivered by an emotional Bettman. Bill Daly talked about things the NHL is willing to "die on the hill" for, and that's not something anybody wants to hear at this point.

But its expected the NHL will still have the 300 million make whole amount and the details from their final offer on the table a 10-year term for the new CBA and a five-year term limit for contracts that extends to seven years if a player is re-signing with his current team. The five percent variation from season-to-season also included, and a stipulation that any contracts bought out will remain on the salary cap.

As we wrote last week, the two sides are in the same zip code for the contract term length after the NHLPA offered a proposal capping it at an eight-year maximum. That's definitely shouting distance, and perhaps even "outside voice" distance. 

Perhaps there is a happy medium where they can agree on a six-year term limit for contracts that will allow the NHL to conform to the seven-year limit insurance companies place on insured contracts. Every dues-paying NHL player that CSNNE.com has polled on CBA length has firmly been in favor of a 10-year deal, so that shouldn't be a stumbling block at the end of the day.

Players want labor peace for the rest of their careers, and know that an uninterrupted 10-year run is the only appropriate statement the NHL can make to fans, sponsors and advertisers in order to once again be trustworthy.

Thats what it should be about at this point in the negotiations. It shouldnt be about setting things up for the next showdown or letting personal animus get in the way of a potential deal. There's good reason for that: another egotistical snag in contract talks could spell the death of the season.

Time is short and the clock is ticking.

If the NHL and NHLPA come to an agreement this week then the league can run a short 7-10 day training camp with a 48-game regular season to begin in early January. It will certainly feature only inter-conference regular season games with as many as seven games against division rivals and two games against every other conference foe. On the plus side that means a lot of BruinsCanadiens games for the discerning local hockey fan.

But it also means a disproportionate number of trips to Buffalo in the dead of winter, and plenty of trips to the Buffalo Chop House for the Black and Gold.

All of these potential scenarios are dependent on Fehr and Bettman finalizing a deal in the next 7-14 days, however, and getting things started before Jan. 15. Most are expecting the season to start at the beginning of January, but we've all been disappointed before. All bets are off if one side misjudges the other one at this delicate juncture, and continues to play their hand with the stubborn carelessness that dominated October and November.

Fehr needs to finally move into closing mode and get the deal after dutifully pushing the NHL to negotiate against themselves over the last few months. The NHL offer kept improving when they forcefully warned it would keep getting worse, and Fehr deserves credit for helping soften the players' landing. Bettman needs to allow both sides to share credit in forging the new CBA, and pull the NHL out of their horrendous tailspin to pro sports oblivion. If the NHL owners continue on their mission to create a schism between Fehr and the players, then it could take a truly ugly turn that threatens the very fabric of the league.

If Bettman, Daly and the NHL owners can forgive some of the bad blood stirred up by three months of hard bargaining then a deal should be on the horizon. But the pressure is now on Fehr and Bettman to close things out in a negotiation that should be completed after a few hours of candid conversation. That's all it should take once both sides stop playing the CBA version of the Hunger Games.

It will be a fatal black mark on Bettmans career if theres a second NHL season cancelled during his tenure as league commissioner. The public sentiment will turn wildly against Fehr and the players if the whole thing blows up because players want an eight-year contract term limit. Both sides are keenly intelligent and PR savvy, and have to know this to be true.

Nobody wants to hear any more of the lies, the personal japes and the empty rhetoric that has become all too common in the CBA proceedings during a negotiation that many labor experts are labeling as both mystifying and embarrassing.

The only phrase anyone wants to hear is the deal is done and ding-dong the lockout is dead. If its anything less than that it should be Fehr and Bettman wearing the goat horns and shouldering the blame.

Lets just hope it doesnt get to that point because theyre just too close now to let it all fall apart.   

Talking Points: DeBrusk provides energy in win

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Talking Points: DeBrusk provides energy in win

GOLD STAR: Jake DeBrusk gave the Bruins all kinds of energy out of the starting gate, and made a couple of plays that allowed his team to hold a lead despite getting outplayed in the opening 20 minutes. DeBrusk went hard to the net splitting a couple of San Jose defenders on the first goal, and fired a shot on net that created a rebound for Peter Cehlarik to cash in on. Then DeBrusk scored a little bit later on a rush where he beat Brent Burns in a foot race to a loose puck, then whistled a wrist shot past Aaron Dell for his fourth goal of the season. DeBrusk finished with a goal and two points along with a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net while falling just short of 16 minutes of ice time in the victory. It was a strong effort from DeBrusk shortly after being a healthy scratch, and showed what he’s capable of when he gets his skating legs going.

BLACK EYE: Brent Burns was a complete mess for the Sharks. He was burnt by Jake DeBrusk in each of the first two Bruins goals in the first period with the B’s rookie going right at him with the attack. He also didn’t make it to the net with 12 of the 16 shots that he attempted and Burns finished with seven giveaways as well. It’s been a rough follow-up season for Burns after last year’s Norris Trophy season where he’s tried to do too much for the Sharks, and his game has suffered as a result. That seemed to be the case for Burns against the Bruins as well where his mistakes played a big role in the Sharks dropping the game.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins won the game when they managed to survive an opening 20 minutes where they were outshot 17-5, and even better they had a 2-1 lead based on some offensive fireworks from Jake DeBrusk. They were also aided by a couple of video reviews where the Bruins took a San Jose goal off the board when it was ruled that a crashing Joonas Donskoi punched a puck into the net with his glove. The Peter Cehlarik goal was also upheld at the other end after a challenge from the San Jose bench. It looked like DeBrusk was tripped before he partially crashed into Aaron Dell that set up the Cehlarik goal, and that’s clearly how the referees saw it after reviewing the play.

HONORABLE MENTION: It’s got to be Anton Khudobin, who stopped 36-of-37 shots and improved to 5-0-2 on the season with another strong win aided by a stalwart defensive effort in front of him. Khudobin now has 12 of the 20 points that the Bruins have amassed on the season, and he absolutely rewarded the B’s for opting to go with the Bruins backup for a second game in a row as they ride the hot goaltender. Khudobin was helped by a number of Bruins blocked shots in the third period when the game was still very tight, but it was also about Khudobin coming up with 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were getting outplayed by the Sharks.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 – the number of Bruins rookies that have scored their first NHL goals this season, including Peter Cehlarik finally getting his first NHL score Saturday night in his 14th career game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We need them. They’re in the lineup and they’re playing significant minutes. We need them to produce for us. Tonight we needed some offense early, and they provided it for us.” – Bruce Cassidy, on the role of the rookies in the win where it was all first-year players Peter Cehlarik, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen doing the scoring vs. San Jose. 

Khudobin stops 36 shots to help Bruins beat Sharks, 3-1

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Khudobin stops 36 shots to help Bruins beat Sharks, 3-1

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Anton Khudobin stopped 36 shots to lead the Boston Bruins to a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

Peter Cehlarik, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen scored to help the Bruins get their second straight win after a four-game skid (0-3-1). Boston had totaled nine goals in its previous five games, scoring more than two for just the second time in nine November games.

Khudobin remained unbeaten in regulation (5-0-2) and improved to 4-1 with a 0.99 goals-against average in five games against the Sharks.

Timo Meier scored and Aaron Dell finished with 18 saves for the Sharks, one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. San Jose has been held to two of fewer goals in five of their seven games this month.

Meier gave the Sharks, losers of two straight following wins in six of seven, a short-lived 1-0 lead after tapping in a rebound 4:50 into the game. Daniel O'Regan, making his season debut, won the puck behind the net and skated around to take the shot that bounced to Meier. It was O'Regan's first career assist and second career point.

Cehlarik, in his 14th game, scored his first career goal about 1 1/2 minutes later to tie it for the Bruins.

Boston took the lead on DeBrusk's goal with 9:14 left in the first. Charlie McAvoy cleared a puck in his zone that DeBrusk chased down and easily beat Dell 1-on-1.

Heinen made it 3-1 with 5:51 left in the third. Kevan Miller skated down the ice, drawing all the attention on the right side. He passed across the crease, from where Heinen tapped it in.

The Sharks had a goal negated for the second straight game, this one two minutes in.

NOTES: Sharks F Danny O'Regan was recalled before the game. He's the leading scorer for the Barracuda of the AHL. ... The Sharks have had three consecutive goals reversed after challenges dating to Thursday's game against the Florida Panthers. ... Sharks F Joel Ward has recorded points in six of his last eight games. ... DeBrusk, who assisted on Cehlarik's goal, recorded his first multi-point game since Oct. 14, a span of 14 games.

UP NEXT

Bruins: At the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.

Sharks: Host the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.