Dougie’s revenge: Hamilton scores center-ice goal vs. Bruins (Video)

It’s one thing for Dougie Hamilton to score against his former team, the Boston Bruins.

But scoring from center ice? That one has to sting, even if the Calgary Flames defenseman did so against Anton Khudobin rather than Tuukka Rask, as you can see in the video above.

That’s quite the way for Hamilton to break an eight-game goal streak. The talented scoring blueliner is one tally away from matching his carer-high of 12 tallies, which he set last season.

If it makes Bruins fans feel better, Boston at least carries a lead into the third period on Wednesday.

The Bruins are quietly becoming contenders in the East

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It might be time to start taking the Boston Bruins seriously as a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference.

A few months ago — heck, even a few weeks ago — that sentence would have been laughable given where the team was in the standings and where it seemed to be headed after consecutive non-playoff seasons. And to be fair, the criticism they were facing at the time was not entirely unwarranted.

Management had made its share of questionable moves in recent years, including the short-sighted Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton trades, to their inability to address their holes on defense, to not giving Tuukka Rask a reliable backup goaltender.

But a funny thing has been happening with the Bruins this season: They have quietly been a sneaky good team all year, and they are now starting to get the results to show it.

In some ways they are starting to resemble the Penguins team that went on its run in the second half of last season to win the Stanley Cup.

You have the in-season coaching change. You have a defense that has been a season-long point of concern that doesn’t look overly impressive on paper, but has found a way to get the job done on the ice. While the Bruins may not have a Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin at the top of their lineup, they still have their share of elite players that can change a game. Patrice Bergeron is still one of the NHL’s best two-way centers. Brad Marchand has become one of the NHL’s best offensive players over the past two years and along with David Pastrnak gives the Bruins two of the league’s top-20 goal scorers this season.

And it’s not just the anecdotal evidence that draws the comparison. It’s in the performance in a lot of ways, too.

All season the Bruins have been the best possession and shot generation team in the league. Earlier in the season when they were struggling to score goals it became sort of a punchline about how shots don’t matter unless they go in the net. As true as that might be, it was still a sign that the Bruins were doing something right, and that there was evidence to suggest that their luck might change.

It has. Since the start of the new calendar year the Bruins have averaged more than 3.3 goals per game over the past 30 games, a number that is fifth best in the league during that stretch.

Right now the Bruins are a better than 55 percent Corsi team for the season and averaging 33.8 shots on goal per game.

Since the start of the 2007-08 season there have only been four teams that finished a season with Corsi percentage higher than 55 and averaged more than 33 shots per game.

  • 2013-14 Chicago Blackhawks
  • 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks
  • 2008-09 Detroit Red Wings
  • 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings

Three of those teams (the ’09-10 Blackhawks, and the two Red Wings teams) all reached the Stanley Cup Final. The fourth lost an overtime Game 7 in the Conference Finals. Of the three teams that reached the Final, two of them won while the third lost a one-goal Game 7 at home on a buzzer-beating save.

On top of that, the Bruins have one of the NHL’s best penalty kills (an essential ingredient for success in the playoffs), both in terms of success rate (second best) and their ability to limit shot attempts (fifth best).

Even though the defense isn’t what it used to be on paper, they are in the top-10 in goals against. Great penalty kill. Great possession. Good defense. An offense with high-end players that is starting to click.

All of the ingredients are there.

But perhaps most important of all is their potential path in the playoffs.

If they can stay in the top-three of the Atlantic Division (where they are right now) they would avoid the second Wild Card spot and thus avoid having to face any of the Metropolitan Division until the Conference Finals. While there are no guarantees in a best-of-seven series, there wouldn’t be a potential matchup in the first two rounds where they wouldn’t at least have a great chance to come out of it, especially given the way they are playing at the moment.

Are they on the same level as a Pittsburgh or Washington right now? That remains to be seen. But the Bruins are starting to come on strong at the right time of year as everything is beginning to come together. They might not win it all, but they’re also probably not a team anybody wants to play at the moment.

Spooner (concussion) could return during Bruins road trip

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There was a positive development at Boston Bruins practice Sunday.

Ryan Spooner, previously listed as out indefinitely with a concussion, was back on the ice skating with his teammates ahead of Monday’s game with the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.

The Bruins are at the beginning of a four-game road trip that includes three games in four nights with stops in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters that Spooner will not play Monday, however he left the door open to the possibility of the 25-year-old center returning to the lineup two days later in Calgary.

It’s likely that when that happens, Spooner will return to his role in the middle of Boston’s third line.

“When he’s healthy, he won’t lose his spot because of injury — unless something really changes quickly here,” said Cassidy. “But that’s the plan.”

Drew Stafford’s late goal lifts Bruins to another win, crushes Flyers playoff hopes

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The Boston Bruins just keep on finding ways to win right now.

Thanks to a Drew Stafford goal — his second in four games with the team — with six seconds to play in regulation the Bruins were able to pick up a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon to continue their white-hot play over the past few weeks and improve their record to 10-3-0 under new coach Bruce Cassidy.

Stafford’s goal represents the type of break the Bruins were not getting earlier in the season when they dominated the shot charts but could not get anything to go in the net. Lately (and this pre-dates the coaching change by a few weeks) they are starting to have those shots turn into goals.

In this case it was an innocent looking shot by Stafford as time was ticking away in regulation, almost as if he was just trying to put the puck on net in a desperation attempt to get a last second goal.

Thanks to a deflection off of Flyers defender Brandon Manning, he got exactly that.

Manning ended up having a pretty miserable day for the Flyers. Along with knocking in the game-winning goal, he was also on the losing end of an early fight with Bruins forward Matt Beleskey just two minutes into the game.

The Bruins acquired Stafford from the Winnipeg Jets for a draft pick just before the NHL trade deadline and he has averaged a point per game so far with his new team.

While the win helps the Bruins solidify their hold on a playoff spot, it was probably a crushing blow to whatever hopes the Flyers had left as they failed to close any ground between them and the New York Islanders for the second wild card spot. If the Islanders win tonight in St. Louis the Flyers would be seven points back with only 15 games to play.

Even if the Flyers get some help tonight and the Islanders lose, a five point gap at this point is going to be difficult to make up with so many teams still between them.

The Flyers needed points today and were five seconds away from getting at least one. Then they ended up getting none.

VIDEO: Bruins and Flyers drop the gloves early in Boston

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The Bruins and Flyers are facing off in Boston in Saturday afternoon and the day started with some fireworks when Matt Beleskey and Brandon Manning decided to fight right in front of the Philadelphia net.

It did not go very well for Manning, as he was dropped with a massive right from Beleskey.

For Beleskey, that was his third fighting major of the season while it is the sixth time Manning dropped the gloves.

The Bruins enter the game with wins in eight of their past 11 games while the Flyers are trying to keep their slim playoff hopes alive after winning just 12 of their past 34 games.