Haggerty: Bruins poised to become NHL's top team because they've earned it

Haggerty: Bruins poised to become NHL's top team because they've earned it

NEW YORK – It was impossible to imagine this when the Bruins were scrapping the bottom of the Eastern Conference back in mid-November, but the Black and Gold are now on the cusp of becoming the best team in the NHL. 

They’ve essentially been the best team the past three months while tearing off a 27-4-4 run since mid-November and have outscored opponents 124-68 in that span. 

The Bruins aren’t just winning at this point. They are crushing their opposition. They did that again with a 6-1 dismantling of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night. 

At 11-1-2 since the beginning of January, the Bruins are now a point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for first place in the Atlantic Division – and, more impressively, for the NHL’s best record.

“We’re trying to win every game that’s on the schedule in front of us,” said Bruce Cassidy. “If we catch [Tampa Bay] then great, and if they play great then that’s the way it goes. We obviously pay attention to it, but it’s not our main focus as a group. I think the guys just want to play from period-to-period. It showed even at the end where we some trying to pull the reins back there, and you had our 40-year-old [Zdeno Chara] flying up the ice. There’s a lot of passion to their games, and it is fun to be around.” 

Oh, by the way, the Bruins also still have a game in hand on all of the other top teams around the NHL with no signs of slowing down. Clearly, the B’s players know where they are in the standings right now and are fully aware of the NHL penthouse that awaits them with a few more wins added to their ledger. 

They’re just not getting too carried away with anything in the middle of February. That was apparent on the second night of a back-to-back when the Bruins finished with a strong flourish while other teams simply can’t do it.

 “We’re working really hard. We keep talking about staying focused and pushing each other to keep getting better. It’s no different,” said Patrice Bergeron. “I feel like we’re working on things that we want to work on, that we need to work on. That’s the mindset and the process that we’ve had. We don’t want to be too high or too low, you know? Obviously, we want to catch up to [Tampa Bay], but that being said we want to worry about what we can do…and just keep getting better.” 

The victory in New York was a perfect example of the Bruins' perfect mixture of strong character, committed work ethic and depth of talent overwhelming teams at every turn. Each of Boston’s four forward lines generated a goal against the Blueshirts with fourth-liner Tim Schaller knocking Henrik Lundqvist out of the game in the second period with a breathtaking and scoring dangle through the defense. 

The Perfection Line kicked in a pair of goals with Bergeron adding to his team-best total of 24 this season and 13 in 15 games since the turn of the calendar to 2018. Only Evgeni Malkin has more goals since the beginning of January and nobody is playing a more dominant two-way game (it was Bergeron that also made a play on Vinni Lettieri at the doorstep to save a goal at the end of the first period) than No. 37 in perhaps the best stretch of his career. 

Couple that with a defense that’s been very good on most nights, a goaltending duo that saw Anton Khudobin and Tuukka Rask put forth stellar efforts in back-to-back games and a team that somehow got stronger in the Big Apple on the second night of back-to-back games, and there’s something special going on with these Bruins as they barnstorm across the NHL collecting points wherever they go.

“It just shows our depth again. That’s why we’re playing so well right now…because we have every line stepping up every single night. It’s hard to defend against a team where you can rely on everybody,” said Brad Marchand, who returned after a five-game suspension with an assist and a plus-2 rating in 17:05 of ice time. 

“It’s been a process. Early on, with the amount of injuries we had and the adversity we went through, it was tough. But now with how we’re feeling, how we’ve jelled as a team and the chemistry that we have, we’re not overly concerned with the standings right now.

“We’re just concerned about our game and not worried about the process. If we focus on coming to play every night then everything else will play itself out.” That’s exactly what’s happening with a Bruins team that’s on the cusp of taking the driver’s seat for the President’s Trophy with roughly two months to go in the season. 

The Bruins are a legitimate Stanley Cup contender given every bit of well-rounded dominance they’ve shown over the better part of three months and they’re about to overtake the mantle of the NHL’s top team while still holding three head-to-head games against the Lightning in the stretch run. 

The Bruins hold their destiny in their hands and have a legit shot to be the NHL’s top seed going into the playoffs with only one team in front of them. Let all of that sink in as the Black and Gold continue pulverizing opponents with depth, two-way dominance, elite goaltending and the best top line in the NHL. 


Bruins trade target Hanifin traded to Calgary

File photo

Bruins trade target Hanifin traded to Calgary

Former Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin, a Bruins trade target who they once tried to trade up to get in the 2015 draft, has been traded from the Carolina Hurricanes to the Calgary Flames in a deal that includes former B's defenseman Dougie Hamilton going to Carolina.

The 'Canes sent center Eric Lindholm and Hanifin, both restricted free agents who rejected Carolina's most recent contract offers, to Calgary for Hamilton, winger Micheal Ferland and prospect defenseman Adam Fox, who was a third-round pick in 2016 now playing at Harvard,

The Bruins have a longstanding interest in Hanifin that goes back to their efforts to trade up for him in when he was the fifth overall pick three years ago. The Canes likely sought Bruins left winger Jake DeBrusk in the hefty package they were seeking for Hanifin. 




Bruins choose Swedish D-man, Czech forward with first two picks

Bruins choose Swedish D-man, Czech forward with first two picks

DALLAS – On the second day, the Bruins finally got involved in the NHL draft at the American Airlines Center and made a few picks. The day started in the second round (57th overall) with the B’s selecting young Swedish defenseman Axel Andersson from Djugardens, a 6-foot, 183-pounder from the Swedish junior leagues who's put up pretty good offensive numbers with what’s said to be pretty good skating ability.

"It meant a lot to me and my family," Anderson said. "My mom is in tears right now, and we just hugged each other. It was a big day for me."

In the third round (77th overall), the Bruins took Czech center/left wing Jakub Lauko, who played for Team Czech in the World Junior tournament this past season. Lauko, 18, is 6-foot, 179 pounds and is a speedy, tenacious forward from the assorted scouting reports on him. Lauko was expected to be drafted higher than the third round and certainly didn’t lack for confidence in saying he’s one of the fastest skaters in the draft.

“My speed is my biggest strength. I think I’m one of the fastest players in the draft, so I want to use my speed to help a team like Boston,” said Lauko, who said he only spoke with the Bruins scouts at the NHL combine earlier this month in Buffalo. “[Detroit Red Wings'] Dylan Larkin is the same like me. He’s a really fast guy that likes the breakaways. I think in this way we are the same.”

Lauko compared himself to Larkin and the speed game is certainly one that the Bruins are continually interested in with their prospects.

There was a very funny moment when the Czech-born Lauko was asked what his parents do (for a living), and he misunderstood the question and answered: “I don’t know? Maybe they will drink tonight.”

In the fourth round (119th overall), the Bruins took big center Curtis Hall, a 6-foot-3, 191-pounder who's committed to Yale next season and who scored 13 goals and 31 points in 54 games last season for the USHL Youngstown Phantoms.  

In the sixth round with the 181st pick, the Bruins selected 6-2, 188-pound defenseman Dustyn McFaul out of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. McFaul is considered a strong two-way D-men with good size and skating ability and is committed to play at Clarkson University. 

With their final pick (seventh round, No. 212), the Bruins selected forward Pavel Shen, 18, from Russia. The 6-1, 183-pounder got into 29 KHL games last season with 12 goals and 14 assists, which is impressive considering his age.