Bruins

Felger: Bruins need to ratchet up their attack

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Felger: Bruins need to ratchet up their attack

By Michael Felger
CSNNE.com

Why is it we can't see the forest through the trees?

Ask Bruins Nation -- players, coaches, fans, media -- how the B's have fallen into a 2-0 hole in the Stanley Cup Finals and you'll get a variety of answers.

You'll hear about turnovers, possession through the neutral zone, toughness and the like. And while all have played a part, none of those issues top my list.

I start with the offense.

After Mark Recchi kicked in the go-ahead goal with 8:25 remaining in the second period on Saturday night, do you realize how many shots the B's generated the rest of the game?

Try six.

In 28:25 of play.

After getting smoked in the third period of Game 1.

After getting shut out in their previous game and managing just one goal in the game before that.

In their last nine periods of playoff hockey, the B's have now been shut out in seven of them.

Cam Neely once told his coach and the rest of us that the object of the game isn't to win 0-0. Unfortunately, it feels to me like Claude Julien and the B's still embrace that philosophy. Their idea of a "perfect" playoff game now seems to be a 1-0 or 2-1 final.

And the worst part is, you all buy it.

I don't know why. Don't you understand how few of those games the Bruins have actually won this postseason? Game 7 of the Tampa series was the aberration, folks. Haven't you been watching?

This is not an opinion. It's a fact.

When the Bruins have scored two goals or less these playoffs, they are 3-6. When they've scored three or more they are 9-2.

To repeat: The Bruins' chances of winning are three times greater when they manage three goals or more. They've now played 20 postseason games, and they've won just three times while scoring two goals or fewer. Yet you still believe the 2-1 game is the B's best chance to win.

Why? I sincerely don't get it.

Maybe we've just been beaten into submission by Julien's system, but the fact remains: You can't win a championship on scheme, structure and goaltending alone. Those things can win you regular-season games in droves and will even get you through some rounds in the playoffs. But they aren't the sole ingredients of championships. At some point, you have to put the puck in the net.

You have to have players who can do it, primarily, but you also need a system that gives those players the ice time and the freedom to do their thing.

This was my No. 1 question with the B's heading into the playoffs, and if they come up short in this series, it will be the No. 1 reason why.

Offense.

Both the players who are capable of doing it and the system that allows them to do it.

Why have you forgotten? It's what brought the B's back against the Canadiens. Down 2-0 heading up to Montreal, the B's scored four goals in Game 3 and five more in Game 4 to crawl back into that series. Then they went to Philadelphia in the second round and put seven goals on the board in Game 1. They wound up scoring 20 goals in that four-game sweep, an average of five per. Then against Tampa, they exploded for six goals in Game 2 to even that series and change the approach of the Lightning thereafter.

Now the B's are back to the point where two goals seems like an offensive explosion -- and it's killing them.

It's putting too much pressure on Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara, and as Saturday night showed, both are human. Two of the three goals Thomas let up were bad. Chara has, for some reason, looked gassed in the third periods of these games. He didn't crack 30 minutes of ice time in either, but his play has steadily declined nevertheless.

Neither are to be blamed for the defeat. Instead, I blame the approach that forces them to pitch shutouts every night. They're not capable of it. No one is.

Now I hear that the B's need more toughness for Game 3 and that Shawn Thornton should be activated. Great. Let's throw him over the boards until he clocks Maxim Lapierre. It will make us all feel better, no doubt about it.

But how does that address the scoreboard? The B's need roof shots, not head shots.

Look, all the things Julien talked about after Game 2 are important. The B's can't turn the puck over in the neutral zone. They have to be better coming out of their own end. Thomas certainly can, and will, play better.

But maybe it's time for Neely to once again remind Julien about the other part of the game. The B's have to start scoring. David Krejci (averaging over a point a game since the Montreal series) has to get over 20 minutes of ice a night -- at least. So does Patrice Bergeron, who also has to start taking more chances offensively (he's just 0-2-2 in his last five). The defense has to get involved. When someone like Rich Peverley has Roberto Luongo dead to right, as he did in the third period Saturday, he has to bury the puck, not clang it off the post. Tyler Seguin, who played less than 10 minutes in each of the first two games, is still sitting there. Recchi, despite his flukey goal, still isn't helping.

Above all, there has to be a realization that going up by a score of 2-1 in the second period of a Stanley Cup Finals game isn't good enough.

There has to be an acknowledgement that low scoring games actually might favor the Canucks. They are 5-3 this postseason when scoring two goals or fewer.

If the B's try and win the series that way they're toast. Three goals seems to be the magic number. Against the Canucks, maybe it will be four. Whatever it is, the B's have to do everything they can to get there.

Maybe we'll find out at the end of the day that the B's just don't have the talent up front to score as much as they need to. That part we can accept, I think.

What we shouldn't accept is an approach that doesn't seem to recognize the facts.

Zero-to-zero isn't working.

And neither is 2-1.

E-mail Felger HERE for the mailbag, which will run on Fridays through the Finals. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Morning Skate: No place for Gudas’ slash on Perreault

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Morning Skate: No place for Gudas’ slash on Perreault

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while enjoying the new Brown Sugar Cinnamon coffee flavor at Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s not Cookie Dough, but what is after all?

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) and PHT writer James O’Brien has the details on Radko Gudas getting ejected for an ugly, reckless and dangerous slash to Mathieu Perreault’s head last night. Gudas should be facing a long suspension for a play that has no place in the NHL. It’s time for Flyers fans to stop making excuses for a player who’s no better than a cheap-shot artist and hatchet man. He has to face the music for consistently trying to hurt his fellow players.  

*Frank Seravalli has some of the details for a historic GM meeting in Montreal where NHL hockey was born in the first place.

*You always need to link to a service dog being part of the pregame face-off ceremonies. That’s like a rule here at the morning skate?

*Cam Atkinson and the Columbus Blue Jackets have agreed to a seven-year contract extension, according to reports from the Athletic.

*It’s been quite an eventful year for Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet and some of it has been to the extreme both good and bad just a month into his first year as bench boss.

*For something completely different: Chris Mannix is all-in on the Celtics being the front-runners in the Eastern Conference after their big win over the Golden State Warriors.

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Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

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Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

These are desperate times for the Bruins even after pulling out a solid, blue-collar 2-1 win over a sputtering Los Angeles Kings team on Thursday night.

The victory ended a four-game losing streak and gave the Bruins just their second road win of the season in eight tries. It was also the fourth win of the season for backup netminder Anton Khudobin, who is a sterling 4-0-2 and has given them everything they could possibly hope for out of the backup spot. The Bruins have a grand total of 18 points on the season and Khudobin miraculously has more than half of those (10 to be exact).

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It’s clearly a far cry from last season for Khudobin, of course, when it took until February for the goalie’s season to get in gear.

But Thursday night’s 27-save effort from Khudobin was also a stunning contrast to what Tuukka Rask has been able to produce this season. Khudobin has a .928 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average. Rask has a dreadful .897 save percentage while giving them average play between the pipes at best.  

Khudobin is tied for seventh in the NHL with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky in save percentage and Rask is chilling in the NHL goalie statistical basement with retreads Steve Mason and James Reimer.

Quite simply, Khudobin has been way better than Rask and the Bruins have, for whatever reason, played better hockey in front of their backup goalie. Some of it might also be about Khudobin’s more adaptable game behind a Boston defense that can make things unpredictable for their goaltender, but Rask is being paid $7 million a season to be better and figure it out. It would be amazing if this trend continued for the entire season and it would certainly merit more examination from management as to why the rest of the Bruins and Rask can’t seem to combine for an effective, winning product on the ice.

For now, the Bruins need to simply win by whatever means necessary and that amounts to riding Khudobin’s hot streak for as long as it lasts. It should begin with the backup goalie getting a second consecutive start against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night and seeing where it goes from there. Perhaps the extra rest gets Rask additional time to get his game together, or serves as the kind of motivation to get the Finnish netminder into a mode where he can steal games for an undermanned, out-gunned team that needs that right now.

“We’re going to look at it,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked postgame by reporters in L.A. about his goalie for Saturday night. “He played very well against San Jose last time. They’re a heavy team. He seems to do well in these kinds of games with a lot of traffic around the net. But we’ll look at that decision [Friday].”

Khudobin has stopped 57 of 61 shots in his two games in November, so perhaps that level of hot goaltending could also allow the Bruins to survive a month that otherwise might absolutely bury their playoff hopes. Maybe Khudobin finally loses on Saturday night and the goaltending conversation, not controversy, ends as quickly as his point streak. For now, riding the hot goalie is the right call for a team that needs something good to hang onto.

The Bruins are in desperation mode until they get a number of their injured players back. There certainly might not be more of a desperate option than setting their beleaguered sights on a goalie they sent to the minors as recently as last season. But it’s a new season, Khudobin has been excellent and he’s earned a chance to carry this team for a little bit until they can get things back in order.

Calling Khudobin’s number is the right call right now for the Bruins and, quite frankly, shouldn’t be that difficult a choice given what we’ve seen so far this season. 

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