Bruins

Bruins' top line must execute

191545.jpg

Bruins' top line must execute

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- There's no hiding behind it. Right now, the Bruins just simply can't execute offensively.

When general manager Peter Chiarelli traded for puck-moving defenseman Tomas Kaberle at the trade deadline, he gave himself limited salary cap space to make another deal for a stud forward.

The thought was that Kaberle's puck-moving skills would be good enough -- especially on the power play -- to make the offense better. It put a lot of pressure and confidence into the guys up front.

And as we know, there's no more pressure than in the playoffs. Especially when trailing a series 2-0, a series you're supposed to be winning.

Montreal defeated the Bruins 3-1 on Saturday night at the TD Garden, taking a 2-0 lead in their first-round series, heading into Montreal for Games 3 and 4.

The blame could be pointed in a number of areas. But there's no denying that the Bruins have had a whole lot more offensive chances than the Canadiens.

Through the first two games of the series, Boston has out-shot Montreal 66-46, yet, the Habs are out-scoring the B's 5-1.

With 35 shots on Saturday night, the Bruins were able to score one goal. And make no mistake, it was a big one.

It came when Brad Marchand took a Mark Recchi pass and sent a feed of his own out front to Patrice Bergeron, who was going hard to the net with his stick on the ice.

Bergeron caught the pass, and found Montreal goaltender Carey Price down and out, cutting the Canadiens' lead to 2-1, 7:38 into the second period.

It was Boston's first goal of the series. And yet, it will stand as their only goal, entering Game 3 Monday night in Montreal.

With Bergeron's line stepping up on Saturday night, the spotlight then switched to the team's top offensive line, or at least, the line that's supposed to be the Bruins' best offensive trio.

For the second straight game, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, and Nathan Horton finished each as a minus-1, with no points to show for themselves.

Some would say inexcusable. Bruins coach Claude Julien said that he's not going to "talk about individuals in any negative way" throughout the playoffs. Seeing that there's not much positive you can say about the Bruins' first line, there isn't anything to say about them at all, other than, the execution has to be better, as soon as the first period of Game 3.

"We had to work pretty hard tonight, just to get that one goal," said Julien after the loss. "I don't think the Canadiens had to work as hard to get theirs. That's basically the difference right now in the games.

"The execution of one team, compared to the execution of the other one. I'm going to stand here and tell you that the execution isn't good enough. It needs to be better. And that's what we have to do from here on in."

Julien doesn't have to sit up on the podium and point the finger. We aren't stupid. Zero points and a combined minus-6 isn't what anybody in the Bruins' organization drew up when they prepared for their first-round series with Montreal.

Bergeon gave the B's a little presence in front of the net on Saturday, by going hard at the goal with his stick on the ice. The little things do work, and Bergeron's goal is a perfect example of that.

"It was there, but obviously not good enough," said Bergeron. "I mean, one goal's not going to beat Montreal."

And no goals from Boston's top line isn't going to get the job done either.

"I thought actually after Montreal's early 2-0 lead, we hung in there pretty good," said Recchi. "We didn't lose our composure, but we just didn't execute like we're capable of. That's the biggest thing all night, the execution wasn't there."

That's been the biggest thing all series. And it needs to change soon, especially with Krejci, Lucic, and Horton. If it doesn't, this one might not be coming back to Boston.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

Familiar faces get the best of the Bruins in Vegas

golden_knights_colin_miller_malcolm_subban_101617.jpg

Familiar faces get the best of the Bruins in Vegas

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – Perhaps part of the confused look from the Boston Bruins on the ice Sunday night in Las Vegas was a nagging feeling of déjà vu they never could shake. The Vegas Golden Knights took a 3-1 win over the Bruins for their fourth win in five tries this season, and handed the Bruins their third truly dreadful-looking defeat in five games played on the young hockey season.

It was tough to avoid the feeling that the Golden Knights were basically “Boston Bruins West”, and that was never too far away from notice as things played out on Sunday. Old friend and former Bruins play-by-play man Dave Goucher and ex-B's defenseman "Sheriff" Shane Hnidy are the friendly faces on the Vegas TV telecast, and were on the Jumbotron pregame in a skit with Carrot Top, of all people, to run down the arena's safety rules in a funny and well-produced video.

Former Bruins PR guru and Beverly native Eric Tosi is in charge of the media relations with the Golden Knights, and has been a busy, busy man along with the rest of the Vegas franchise getting the expansion club off the ground. He was even busier this past weekend, albeit with a relaxed smile on his face, as 20 members of the Tosi clan made the road trip out to Vegas to see the first NHL game between the two franchises.

MORE:

And there were the actual familiar faces on the ice with ex-Bruins Malcolm Subban and Colin Miller excelling against their old team. Subban only needed to stop 21 shots in the victory, but was able to finish his first NHL start and earn his first career NHL win against the Bruins franchise that left him unprotected on waivers just a couple of weeks ago.

The Bruins didn’t make the 23-year-old Subban sweat much during the game with pedestrian shots that hit the first-round pick squarely in the jersey crest, and pretty much zero attempts to beat his questionable glove hand.

"We know Malcolm well," said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. "He's a good first-shot goaltender for the most part. We wanted to put some stress on him and make him uncomfortable on those second ones, and I don't think we did a good job on that."

But give Subban credit for calming down his mental approach and refining his technique enough to play solid positional goaltending against the Bruins, and gaining some sweet revenge in the process.

Subban wasn’t gloating about it or basking in any kind of vengeance against his former team, but instead just expressed happiness at doing the job after stepping in for the injured Marc-Andre Fleury. It remains to be seen if Subban is going to be able to hold down the fort against the teams that will inevitably test him more than the hapless Bruins did, but he gave his team a good chance to win on Sunday.

"It's a great feeling. I made a lot of friends [in Boston], played with a lot of great teammates and (had) a great coaching staff. I'm just happy to get the win. The biggest thing was just not thinking, staying focused, and staying in the moment. It feels really good to get the first win in your first game," said Subban, "My first shot I got good control on it and that got me in the game a lot. You never know how the game is going to go in the NHL. It’s really technical. Sometimes you don’t get a lot of shots, so you gotta stay focused, and I felt I did that tonight.

“I thought I played pretty good. The biggest thing was my depth and not getting too deep in the net. Give myself the better opportunity to make the save. I feel like I did that (Sunday). There weren’t too many high chances. [There were] a lot of textbook saves and just having good rebound control. I’m happy to get the win.”

Miller didn’t factor into the scoring for the Golden Knights against the Bruins, but he was extremely active with three shots on net and eight shot attempts in 18:25 of ice time. He got plenty of power play time, was a plus player and looks like he might get the chance to develop his game in Vegas that hadn’t quite played out over the previous couple of years in Boston.

The Bruins won’t return to Vegas until next season, but the hope has to be those same Golden Knights’ familiar faces won’t get the best of the B’s when they come for their one-and-only visit to TD Garden at the beginning of November.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Only five games into season, Bruins already sending off bad vibes

cp-spark-bruins-knights-kuraly-sbias-1-101617.jpg

Only five games into season, Bruins already sending off bad vibes

LAS VEGAS -- Even though it's only five games into a new regular season, it feels like the Bruins are in danger of going off the tracks.

They finished their three-game Western road swing Sunday with an aimless 3-1 loss to the expansion Golden Knights, which came on the heels of a wretched defeat in Colorado and a victory over the winless Coyotes. Sunday was particularly disheartening, as they never tested their ex-goalie, Malcolm Subban, putting only 21 mostly harmless shots on net against a player they gave away on waivers just a few weeks ago,

They may only have three losses in five games, but it sure feels like there's trouble starting to brew in Bruins land.

“It could be a lot of different things,” said Brad Marchand about the loss to Las Vegas. "We may not have been as mentally prepared for that game as we thought we were. They wanted it more than we did. They out-battled us in a lot of areas and they were the better team. We were making it hard on ourselves. We were trying to do too much with the puck, and not directing enough of the pucks toward the net. You can’t get rebound and you can’t get bodies there if the puck isn’t going there.”

That is a lot of different things. A lot of different problems:

-- They couldn’t fight to get to the front of the net against a rugged Vegas defensive group that was going to make them battle to get there.

-- Once again they had too many passengers along for the ride, with both Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano failing to even be a blip on the game’s radar screen. Spooner suffered a lower body injury midway through the game, but while he was out there he was a non-factor once again. 

-- It felt like there was no flow at all to Boston’s game, with breakouts dogged by sloppy passing and players who weren’t hard enough on the puck.

-- When they did get a chance to create something they either missed the net with their shot, or opted not to even take the shot in the first place. 

-- They lost 67 percent of the 57 draws taken during the game, and saw Spooner, Riley Nash and David Krejci and Ryan Spooner go a combined 8-for-29 in the face-off circle.

-- They chased the puck for long stretches and certainly didn’t ever put together anything approaching a consistent, driving pressure in the offensive zone.

Missing stalwart veterans like Patrice Bergeron and David Backes certainly isn’t helping. It makes the Bruins a much smaller group up front that can be pushed around by bigger, stronger defensive units.

But even so, there’s a sense the Bruins can’t consistently bring their 'A' game to the rink with them and don’t seem to have much fight when they fall down by a couple of goals. Trailing by just two goals going into the third period, the Bruins had four shots on net for most of the final period until a late flurry produced a score by David Pastrnak.

Perhaps of more concern, though, is the growing feeling that the Bruins aren’t all on the same page.

Marchand vaguely referenced that the Bruins weren’t prepared to play Sunday, and Tuukka Rask said he’ll no longer comment on anything except his own goaltending. Rask has always been candid and willing to be frank about any shortcomings after Bruins losses, but it appears that’s not something that is any longer welcome inside the B’s dressing room.

“I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on,” said Rask. “I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much. We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

Meanwhile, Krejci was similarly short in his postgame thoughts and started talking about avoiding pointing fingers after a frustrating loss.

“There’s no reason to point fingers," he said. "Yeah, we lost a game and it was a frustrating loss. But it’s just the fifth game of the season, so we don’t need to make a big deal out of it. We’re going to back to Boston, we’re going to work hard in practices and we’re going to get ready for the next game.”

Clearly, the fact this stuff is coming to the surface just five games into the season is a cause for concern. But it makes sense, given the way the Bruins are letting an easy portion of the season slip through their fingers.

In their first 10 games of the year, they're facing only one team that made the playoffs last season and they've got plenty of spaced-out stretches in the schedule to get off to a strong, healthy start. Instead they’re losing to subpar teams and highly unproven goalies, and doing so with a real lack of energy or purpose on the ice.

Certainly management would be smart to think about shipping underperforming players like Vatrano back to the AHL in place of Peter Cehlarik or Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. And a few more games like Sunday’s snooze-fest could advance trade talks for a player like Matt Duchene.

But there aren’t going to be any easy answers. It comes down to hard work and hunkering down together as a team, and Sunday’s pitifully inept loss in a very winnable situation was yet another sign the Bruins aren't even close to being there yet.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE