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Haggs: Haula Is Best Move The Boston Bruins Didn’t Make



The best move that the Boston Bruins made this season might be the one that they didn’t end up making.

They had certainly kicked the tires on Claude Giroux before learning that the longtime Flyers center wasn’t interested in coming to Boston, and they were most definitely in the running for Rickard Rakell in a move that would have changed around Boston’s line combinations.

There was even the far-fetched fantasy that David Krejci might return from the Czech Republic to reclaim his No. 2 center spot once his European hockey season had ended. All of that had to place some kind of kernel of doubt in Erik Haula’s head that the Boston Bruins weren’t happy with him while searching for an upgrade centering Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak.

In the end, though, they stood pat at forward while upgrading significantly on the back end with Hampus Lindholm at the NHL trade deadline, and it’s proven to be the correct call by the B’s front office given the way that Erik Haula has played ever since.

Haula continued a post-trade deadline tear with two goals in Saturday night’s 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets including the game-winner for the Boston Bruins. The 31-year-old Finnish forward now has four goals and 10 points along with a plus-9 in the six games since the NHL trade deadline came and went and admitted that perhaps some kind of imaginary weight is off his shoulders these days.

“I don’t know if it gets to me, but I’ve moved a lot lately,” said Haula. “Maybe there’s a little thought in the back of the head, you know, of the past – try to work through that obviously. It is nice when you know this is our team. But that’s ultimately out of my control and now I’ll just put the foot on the gas and try to do something special here.

“It’s always awesome when you can help the team win. I am happy.”

Certainly, he’s playing totally free and easy.

Haula is up to 12 goals and 35 points for the season and is building toward his best season since a career year with the Vegas Golden Knights when he scored 29 goals. It was a funny sequence that led to his third period game-winner, however, as it didn’t come with either of his usual linemates, Hall or Pastrnak. Instead with just seconds left on a third period power play in the latter minutes of the third period, Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy sent out Haula, Craig Smith, Jake DeBrusk, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Carlo out for the remainder of a power play.

Carlo ended up firing a point bid toward the net that Haula redirected past Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins for the game-winning goal in a third period that the Boston Bruins ended up outshooting the Blue Jackets by a 15-4 margin.

The two-goal effort from Haula led to a game puck afterward in the victorious Boston Bruins dressing room.

Truly, though, things turned for Haula’s entire season when he was placed at center between Hall and Pastrnak back on Jan. 1. In the 40 games since then, Haula has 11 goals and 30 points after posting just a single goal in the first 25 games of his Boston Bruins career.

“We made those changes a while ago and it’s worked out well, and Erik has been a big part of that,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “[The trade chatter] could have bothered him because there’s some discussion about that, but I never had it with him. I’ve liked the job that he’d done and continues to do. Only he can answer if he had some anxiety about it, but at the end of the day he’s responded well from the moment he was put [at second line center] until tonight.

“His game is in a good place, and we’ve liked what he’s doing. It’s helped our team be a better team.”

Haula’s top priority is playing the 200-foot game and paying attention to the details with offensive risk-takers on either wing, but the chemistry has also brought out the best in his offensive game as well.

“I try to create room for them,” Haula said of his linemates. “I try to get them the puck in areas where they can make plays. If it’s coming with wide speed or whatever it is, I try to put them in spots where they can use that skill and use that speed. I think that’s worked well for me and I’ll try to do that, trying to create space.

“But then also being part of it as well. There are opportunities for me to put up points and score goals from all of that. I’m enjoying playing with them. It’s a lot of fun. Obviously, two great players. Just trying to do my best and trying to do what really works.”

Clearly, the real test for Haula as the No. 2 center will be the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs. The Boston Bruins will need the scoring depth from their top three lines that we’ve all seen over the last three months if they hope to enjoy any kind of prolonged run, and Haula is a key figure in all of that centering the second line.

He may not be David Krejci and there are undoubtedly flashier, more productive No. 2 centers around the league, but Erik Haula might just be exactly what the Boston Bruins needed as their second line center…even if he was the second or third option for that role when a season of change got started for the Black and Gold.

Haula is proving each and every day that one of the best moves Don Sweeney made in March was to avoid any temptation to replace him in a spot that he’s made his own in Boston’s lineup.





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