Bruins

The Hagg Bag: Panic attack

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The Hagg Bag: Panic attack

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

There were plenty of panicked Bruins fans on the heels of that four-game losing streak last week, and even a really peeved Islanders fan taking issue with my characterization of their terrible hockey team.

With the playoffs around the corner well pick up the Haggs Bag pace a little bit. So feel free to send me your questions at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com and perhaps well include you the next time around.

On to the Hagg Bag:

So what is the team up to with an evening off in Nashville? Y'all only get here every couple of years and most teams enjoy their visit.-- Buddy Oakes

First off, Im not surprised theres a guy named Buddy living down in Nashville. But Ive got to say that question, considering there's just about anything at your fingertips down there, kind of amazes me. Im going to wager a guess that the Bruins players ate some good barbeque, listened to some country music and took a picture with that Elvis statue down by the rink. But thats just a guess on my part. Enjoy the game tomorrow, Buddy.

Joe,Is it just me? This Bs team has been dreadful!! How in the world can they even sniff your top ten?They consistently lose 1-on-1 battles. Theyre slop, slop, sloppy with the puck, especially in their own end. They cant break their end on a rush cleanly to save their freaking lives! Im watching this team, frustrated as hell wondering how in the world theyre the No. 3 seed in the East? They have no identity, no rhythm. Its so troubling!What is it? The players?I know theyre deep and should be better than they show night after night recently. Is it Claude Julien? I dont get it. Either way they keep this up and theyre gonna draw a nasty first-round opponent and be one and done in the tourney. Someone will have to pay if that happens. It might be the best thing for this organization in the long term because it will give Cam the excuse to axe the GM and the Coach. Good riddance, I say!-- Kevin from Woburn

Its amazing how everything turns into a Fire Claude rant from disgruntled Bruins fans. How about getting a little less "gruntled"?

I wouldnt say the team has been dreadful, as much as they look like somebody filled up their ice skate boots with concrete. They look a little tired and a little discombobulated without a few of their fast-skating, fast-thinking defensemen. The Bruins miss Andy Ference in a big way and thats part of the reason they look sloppy offensively and defensively over the last few weeks.

The numbers dont lie: The Bruins are 61-34-13 with Ference in the lineup and only 17-17-8 without their oft-injured veteran defenseman. I do agree with you on one thing thought, Kevin. If the Bruins dont make it a significant distance into the postseason like, say, the Eastern Conference Finals there could definitely be an organizational price to be paid before next season.

But were a long way from there, and thats not something to exactly look forward to should it transpire.

Haggs,Do you see Tyler Seguin taking the place of Brad Marchand if Marchands suspended?-- Jesse

Yes, I do. Hows that for an answer, Jesse?

Haggs,I know this is Timmys Bruins team. But is Tuukka Rask closing the gap between them?

I think he permanently closed the gap when he won the starting goaltender job down the stretch last season, and then was Bostons only goaltender in the playoffs against the Sabres and Flyers. Yes, Tuukka Rask is the backup this season and has gone through a serious period of adjustment while getting only sporadic playing time. But Rask is a goalie that just about every other NHL team would love to have, and hes the heir apparent in Boston. Hes a 1A goalie to Thomas 1.

But all that being said, Tim Thomas is having one of the best seasons in the modern era of NHL goaltending. Hes going to get the nod through the entire playoff run, barring unforeseen disaster. And Thomas will have to play at his best if the Bruins are going to advance deep into the postseason.

Haggs,Do you think the recent "skid" is a result of complacency? Bad luck? Coaching?

I think its simply fatigue at the end of a long season, combined with a couple of defensemen injuries. Add in a slump for the Patrice BergeronBrad Marchand line, and you have a portion of your answer. The one thing Im glad to see: Bergeron and Marchand have been reunited with Mark Recchi after Julien tried to shake things up a bit by adding Rich Peverley with them.

The BergeronMarchandRecchi line has shown the kind of mojo this season that youd want to think long and hard about messing with, but now Bergeron is riding a seven-game scoring drought and Marchand hasnt potted a goal in over three weeks.

Give the Bs credit for scratching out a win against the Columbus Blue Jackets when they didnt deserve it, but they need Bergeron to again find his groove.

Joe,Does it make too much sense to place Marchand back on the fourth line (the entire line was much better with him there) and put Seguin in his spot? I can't take much more of Danny Paille, obviously a Julien favorite. I honestly believe if Claude had his way, which I don't think he does as far as Seguin's playing time is concerned (past two games not included), Paille would be in the lineup every night.Word will come down from upstairs, if it hasn't already (Cam), to get Seguin back in the lineup. Julien has to resist the urge to take a players' creativity away in the name of lockdown defense. I was not a Phil Kessel fan, but the speed and passing ability of this team of two years ago changed when he left. I've been a Bruins fan for 45 years and I'd be hard-pressed to name a team that passed and skated and was as fun to watch as that team was.Just sayin'.Phastphil

Okay Phastphil, I dont think the answer is dropping Marchand back to the fourth line. I think hes really found a home with Patrice Bergeron despite their recent struggles. I wonder whats going to happen to Tyler Seguin once the playoffs begin, and the shootout weapon becomes irrelevant. If Seguin isnt playing top-six minutes and getting regular power-play time, a couple of his real strengths arent being utilized like they could be. That said, having Seguin as the first Black Ace ready to fill in when the Bruins need offensive pop is a luxury.

Paille might be limited, but he plays hard, he plays tough, he plays fast and he wont make mistakes that arent going to completely undo the Bruins in the playoffs. Seguin has been much better since getting scratched in early February, and really seems to finally be understanding things at the NHL. But understanding and being physically strong enough to hack the NHL are two very different things.

Kessel wasnt all the way ready his first season in the NHL as a youngster, and Seguin is in that same space this year. Perhaps it would make it easier if you viewed Seguin in that vein.

Haggs,After hearing Felger getting nowhere with the Montreal radio station and then seeing Hab fans, media and players all saying how bad Chara was, I friggen snapped. I asked every one of those people about Mark Eaton, as you saw, but I honestly felt Chara was taking a beating that he did not deserve. No one would comment on what hypocrites they were being, and the population of Montreal shutting down 911 made my head explode. That is my explanation for all those tweets. Chara has been a clean honest player too long to have his rep trounced on by those asses up there.-Fitzy

In the interest of background, this was loyal reader Fitzy explaining why he firebombed every hockey insider with rants about Max Pacioretty throwing a dirty hit on the Islanders Mark Eaton earlier this season.

Fitzy, you friggen snap whenever you want to snap, my friend. Youve earned the right and nobody within this Hagg Bag is going to stick up for a Montreal fan base thats truly embarrassed themselves this season.

Haggs,Hapless? Lowly? As a journalist you should know the facts before using adjectives that seem to describe your talent and professionalism rather than the performance of a hockey team that in the last 3 months have been as good as your Bruins.Did you know that since December 16, which happens to be 41 games (half of a season), the Bruins and the Isles both have 49 points to lead the Eastern Conference?Yes, I do understand the Isles had 1 win in 21 games earlier in the season, I just feel the adjectives you used are very misleading and a incorrect representation of the up and coming New York Islanders.-- Barry

"Up and coming" Islanders? Really, Barry? Is Trevor Gillies "up and coming?" The facts are that the Islanders have been the laughingstock of the NHL since I started covering the league prior to the lockout, and that hasnt changed one iota under the doomed stewardship of Charles Wang. Might be time to start cheering for the Rangers there, Barry.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Backes, on mend from bout with diverticulitis, may return Thursday

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Backes, on mend from bout with diverticulitis, may return Thursday

BRIGHTON -- While there will clearly need to be sign-offs from the medical staff, the Bruins aren’t ruling out a return from David Backes for Thursday night’s game vs. the Vancouver Canucks.

Both Backes and Patrice Bergeron returned to Bruins practice with the rest of their teammates on Tuesday morning at Warrior Ice Arena, but it was only the 33-year-old Backes that practiced fully without any limitations.

“He skated a little while we were away and a full practice today, so we’ll consult with the medical staff going forward with his plan,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “Potentially he could be an option for Thursday, and I think that should sort itself out in the next couple of days. We’re no different than anybody else, right? We’d like to have our full complement, and some of the guys we’re missing are glue guys that could really add that element to some of the kinds of games that got away from us.”

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After the team practice, Backes said that he’s been skating for the last four days and that he’s lost about 10 pounds over the last couple of weeks while adjusting to the medication and dietary treatments for diverticulitis. It wasn’t a complete shock to Backes given some of his family medical history, but he wasn’t expecting anything like that to hit him in the prime of his professional athletic career at just 34 years old.

“I have a family history of it, but this is kind of unfortunate timing and unfortunate circumstances. Hopefully I take care of this, get it behind me and not have to ever think about it again,” said Backes. “The first couple of days it was tough to just stand up straight or do anything, and then you’re on a ‘no exercise’ regimen for six or seven days. So progress . . . certainly. A return . . . we’ll see. Long-term prognosis we’ll have to discuss with the really smart guys.

“You don’t have much appetite, to deal with pain you take a painkiller and then that slows down digestion and just makes it even worse. So you’re stuck there…and it really drains your energy. I was on a liquid diet there for a few days and lost about 10 pounds. I don’t suggest that as a crash diet for anybody.”

He’s come a long way from being stuck in a Mass General hospital bed during Bruins opening night against the Nashville Predators, and Backes is hoping he’ll be all the way back to playing sooner rather than later. The Bruins right winger skated in a third line spot with Riley Nash and Tim Schaller on Tuesday, and said he’s actually even consulted a bit with former Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light, who battled his own stomach issues with Crohn’s Disease during his NFL career.

“I was like a kid in a candy store before practice. You have that carrot of Game 1 dangled in front of you and then taken away, and finally you’re back with the guys on the ice after they’ve been gone a week. Knowing what the results have been you want to interject a little energy out there while knowing that we’ve got 77 games left to establish ourselves, and find our game,” said Backes. “I felt good out there and it was nice to be back on the ice. I was smiling most of the day knowing that I’ll hopefully be playing some ice hockey in the future.

“We’re working to get that strength back and to return me to a productive member of this hockey team, which is going to be on the upswing here shortly. It’s not just due to me, but because guys are putting work in as a group. I’m trying to be as educated about it as I can, so I can be available as often as possible and as productive as possible when I am available.”

There are medical hurdles that need to be traversed by Backes before he can return, but once it becomes a matter of toughness and grit then he’ll be suiting up again for the Black and Gold, and that moment might be coming soon.

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'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

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'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

BRIGHTON, Mass – Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was acting a bit out of character after the Sunday night loss to the Vegas Golden Knights when he said he wouldn’t be commenting on team performance outside of his own goaltending. 

Clearly, it was a tense atmosphere in the Bruins dressing room following an extremely bad road performance and it would seem very likely there’s probably been some friction in the past between Rask and positional players over his postgame candor.

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That was the backdrop for Rask keeping it laconic, and saying on Sunday night: “I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on. 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.”

It would seem that some fans and Bruins observers took that to mean Rask was pissed off at his Bruins teammates after a few breakdowns defensively, and a total non-performance at the offensive end of the ice.

Taking all that into account, Rask clarified his comments a bit after practice Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena and said it’s all about focusing on his own performance rather than taking issues with any of his teammates.

“You lose games and you’re not happy with your performance. Somebody just told me that I guess it got spun the wrong way that it was me mad at my teammates or something. That’s definitely not the case,” said Rask, whom at 1-3-0 with a 3.30 goals-against average and .880 save percentage this season, is clearly in need of some improvement as well.

“You lose games and you definitely hold yourself accountable and you want to talk about your performance and what you need to do to get better," Rask said. "So, that’s where I was coming from. I definitely wasn’t mad at our team. I was more mad at myself, so that’s that.

“You always try to give a fair assessment about the game, but I think the biggest thing that I need to worry about, and what everybody else needs to worry about, is how they get better themselves. You start from that, so that’s where I was coming from.”

The prospect of getting Patrice Bergeron and David Backes back healthy would go a long way toward improving the Bruins play on the ice and stabilizing things defensively for Rask and the rest of the Black and Gold. That’s really what’s needed at this point to improve a situation where the B’s are 23rd in the NHL, averaging 3.6 goals allowed per game, and real, rather than figurative, fingers might start getting pointed all around if it doesn’t start looking better in short order.