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Mid-day thoughts from Haggs

12.09.08 at 1:08 pm ET
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I back check, therefore I am...

I back check, therefore I am...

Here’s a couple of quick links this morning as I blog hockey from the MLB Winter Meetings in Las Vegas and work on the first “Ask Haggs Mailbag” or “Haggbag” if you’re into the whole brevity thing. Utilized the NHL GameCenter Live on the computer to watch portions of the 5-3 win over the Lightning last night at the Garden, and was impressed with the fast start despite Claude Julien’s pointed — and well deserved –remarks about his team relaxing with the big lead after the game. Even more interesting was Julien’s thoughts about Kessel, who appeared on the PK unit last night and could be a short-handed threat each and every time he’s on the ice if he gets regular ice time on the specialized unit.

On forward Phil Kessel’s progression as a player…
I answered that question there after the game with NESN and what I told them was that he’s in his third year in the league. He’s more mature, and his whole game is starting to round out a little better. As good as he’s always been with his hands and his shot and his speed, there was more that he needed to learn for his game. He’s much better without the puck, which has given him more opportunities. When you don’t cheat guys, you come back, you do your job, you recover the puck quicker, and you go back on the attack.

And I think he’s understood that concept very well. I mean he’s one of the guys that will bury his head and back check hard, and do that job as well defensively as offensively. I think that’s kind of helped his game a lot, scoring goals certainly helps confidence, and he knows he can score goals. All the things put together has definitely made him a better player but it’s experience, and a young player needs time to develop and we’ve given him that.

On using Kessel on the penalty kill…
We talked about his situation on the penalty kill at the beginning of the year, that we maybe wanted to utilize him at times and his speed could put pressure on the opposing team during the power play. Tonight was a great time because we lost Stephane Yelle, and two of the penalties it was Bergeron or Krejci, Krejci twice, so we needed him to step up and I thought he did a great job on the penalty kill. Again, another body that we can use in those situations.

First-line sensation Phil Kessel continues to set the pace with the Bruins, and is third in all of the NHL with 17 goals scored this season. The 21-year-old scored 19 goals in 82 games all of last season, and is currently on a pace to score an amazing 52 goals and 24 assists for 76 points if he completes a full schedule of games for the Bruins.

The last 50 goal scorer for the Bruins? The answer — which no doubt many of you remember fondly – is at the end of the blog entry…

On to some puck linkage…

–Check in with Where’s Trags for the latest sound and news from Bruins practice as he’ll be the man on the scene while I’m hanging with the Flying Elvii for the week.

–Deposed bench jockey Barry Melrose voices his hopes that the Tampa Bay Lightning don’t win another game in an interview he did with 590 AM radio station in Toronto this morning. In the same interview he drops verbally detonated bombs on both co-owner Len Barrie and rookie Steve Stamkos as well.

–Bad news for a number of US-based NHL teams that are suffering through attendence/performance woes this season, according to the Hockey News – a group of seven squads (Phoenix Coyotes, Atlanta Thrashers, Nashville Predators, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers) will lose at least $5 million this season barring long playoff runs. It continues to reinforce what I’ve been saying all along: ship at least two Southern/Sunbelt hockey teams to back up Canada where they’ll be fully appreciated.

–Yahoo.com is the next in a long line of media outlets to claim that this Black and Gold team is the closest descendant of the Big, Bad Bruins of the 1960′s and 1970′s. I can’t say that I disagree, and it’s getting to the point now where teams simply aren’t messing with the B’s because they know what kind of frozen-fisted beatdown they could be in for.

The answer to the question above is, of course, Cam Neely, who memorably scored 50 goals in 49 games back in 1993-94 in one of his last great moments before succumbing to leg injuries that hampered him over the second half of his career. With that in mind, here’s a priceless ESPN “This is SportsCenter” commercial with Neely and Roger Clemens from a long time ago in a Boston sports galaxy far, far away. We see a great glimpse at the future career of Seabass when he calls Clemens “negative.” Seems like a million years ago and seems like a dead-on appraisal of the Rocket, doesn’t it?

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