Bruins

Haggerty: Bruins aren't themselves

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Haggerty: Bruins aren't themselves

WINNIPEG, MB The time has officially come to get concerned about the Boston Bruins.

Every team goes through a midseason malaise when fatigue creeps into a hockey clubs game, and the light of the NHL regular season tunnel is much too distant to seem attainable. But a team in normal seasonal doldrums can snap out of it when necessary and the Bruins have been attempting to right the ship for weeks without believably tangible success.

Injuries, uncharacteristic defensive breakdowns from reliable performers like Zdeno Chara and a couple of weak sauce efforts in the third period in back-to-back games have the Bruins battling some very uncharacteristic results. The latest out-of-character Bs performance had then folding in the third period like an aluminum VFW chair in a 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre.

For some reason we cant find a way to win two games in a row, said Krejci. I think it was a pretty good challenge for us in the third period and we felt good ourselves when we scored that second goal. But from there we sat back and we cant do that. We have to play to win.

We have to find a way to be the same Bruins that we used to be. It isnt that hard because we all know that its in this room. We just have to find it again.

The first step to overcoming the losses of Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley is within the elevated performances of the others still standing on the Bruins roster, and there werent enough players raising their level against the Jets. Tuukka Rask let in a pair of soft goals in the second period when a lockdown performance was needed.

Zdeno Chara is a minus-6 in his last three games while turning pucks over and moving very slowly and gingerly out on the ice a set of developments that could very well be fatigue or nagging health issues for the Bs Captain.

One shot on net apiece from Milan Lucic, Benoit Pouliot and Patrice Bergeron isnt good enough when all three need to be key offensive producers without Peverley and Horton. Pouliot needs to be much more highlight reel Pouliot than disappearing act Pouliot.

Its clear Claude Julien is going to ratchet up the conservative defensive game plan without two of his big offensive forwards, and is preaching adherence to the game plan and system.

That means the defensive cant afford breakdowns like the two Bryan Little rebound goals in the third period when the Bs blueliners couldnt clear the puck out of the zone. That also means the Bruins need elite goaltending from their puck-stopping tandem and they havent received that from Rask in more than a month.

Perhaps Peter Chiarelli will whip up a big deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning that will give Boston the defenseman (Pavel Kubina) and forward (Ryan Malone) they most desperately need. But until the cavalry arrives or good health returns, the Bruins are in strict suck it up mode.

We need to find a way to and we need to find answers. Its way too many ups and downs right now, said Patrice Bergeron. Its not even close to the effort that we need right now. Were working hard, but were not working smart. It hurts us so much when we do that. We get away from our game and we get away from our system, and thats when we get scored on.

One has to hope that part of the problem isnt straight out complacency. The Bruins know they wont be catching up to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference after they dropped both games to the Blueshirts over the last month. But the Bs also arent getting pushed by anybody in the Northeast Division with their closest competitor in Ottawafour points behind them with Boston holding a whopping four games in hand.

The Southeast Division doesnt appear to be any kind of threat in overtaking the Bruins for the No. 2 seed in the East either, so the Bs can just row merrily along on their schedule without much worry. The Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals are battling just to stay in the playoff picture without much hope of catching the B's. The Black and Gold will still end up near 100 points even if they go .500 the rest of the way on the regular season schedule, and thats a testament to how red-hot they were during the months of November and December.

The Bruins are comfortable despite the adversity set upon them, and thats partially a byproduct of the innate confidence that comes from winning a Stanley Cup. But theres also a deal danger that the Bruins will slip into a comfortable, mediocre trance for the rest of the regular season without anybody pushing hard at them.

That could leave them vulnerable during the playoffs if it takes them too long to rekindle the hungry Bruins team that leaves other hockey clubs cowering in their punch-filled path.

The only thing that can stir the Bruins from their February stupor is their own desire to be stronger and better than theyve been in more than a month. The Bruins still have a chance to turn their six-game road trip into a game-changer like last seasons undefeated voyage through Western Canada.

It all starts with playing Bruins hockey and getting the expected results, and that hasnt consistently been the casefor 17 games and counting.

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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