Bruins

Haggerty: Bruins need to wake from Cup dream

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Haggerty: Bruins need to wake from Cup dream

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- The hockey season alarm clock is ringing uncontrollably, and its time for the Boston Bruins to lay off the snooze button.

The Bruins finished up a three-game homestand to begin defense of their Stanley Cup title, and played Bruins hockey in exactly one out of the three contests.

While the season-opening stumble against the Flyers was understandable given the banner-raising and emotionally draining nature of the evening, the Bruins have no alibi for a flaccid 1-0 loss to the not-ready-for-prime-time Colorado Avalanche Monday afternoon.

Everybody knows the Bruins have never been much of a matinee hockey team over the years, but there was genuine annoyance at the teams performance within the home dressing room postgame. That should be taken as a positive sign.

Its time for some guys to wake up and start playing, said one particularly frustrated Bs player after losing to the second-worst team in the NHL last season. The season has already started and were not playing like it yet.

There are plenty of areas to point at with distress, but none more than the lackadaisical play of top-line forwards Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton this season. Horton has managed exactly one shot and zero hits -- in three games thus far and the line looks fat and happy on Stanley Cup glory with a combined minus-6 to start the season.

Claude Julien hinted after the game that changes could be in store for that line. It wouldnt shock anyone if the Bruins coach opts for a little more skill and speed up on the top line given the promise Tyler Seguin has shown thus far this year.

But it goes beyond three simple forwards.

There was a general team-wide malaise in the first period against an Avs team that the Bruins clearly underestimated, and very little emotion until the final 20 minutes, when desperation finally set in.

By then it was too late.

Every team is going to be like the Avs were Monday. They want to compare themselves to us because we just won. Thats what teams do, said Johnny Boychuk. Theyre going to be fired up to play us. Every time we played a championship team before winning the Cup, we were always fired up.

They came in guns blazing and we need to be prepared for that. We need to match that or be better than them. Were not going to surprise anybody . . . thats for sure.

The Bruins set a sloppy tone in the first period when Zdeno Chara lost his composure after getting belted hard by Ryan OByrne with a clean hit, and went off to the box on the first shift of the game in a situation that soon became a 5-on-3 advantage for the Avs.

Colorado didnt score, but theyd successfully pushed the Bruins around in their backyard and goaded their captain into doing something unwise that was a harbinger of things to come.

The Bs coaching staff sensed a troubling kind of laxity in the dressing room prior to puck drop, and can now use it as ammunition on the practice ice as the Bruins head out for a two-game road trip against the Hurricanes and Blackhawks.

Both teams have improved from last year and theres little doubting theyll also have a bullseye placed squarely on the chest of the Bs players.

We got outworked by a team that was a lot hungrier than we were today," Julien said. "Right from the get go, as soon as they got that first power play it gave them some momentum and then they just never looked back. Throughout the game I felt our team was second on the puck. We were losing the races. Whenever we did go there and get in to battle, they certainly were a lot hungrier than we were.

I think its one of those games that you hope will give your players the opportunity to realize that what weve talked about since the beginning: Every team coming in here and playing us hard is going to happen. From the time they were in the dressing room, I could feel that there was maybe a little bit too much comfort. We have to understand that if were not going to get prepared the same way every night, were going to have more of those nights.

Maybe it took the reality of watching Semyon Varlamov make 30 saves in shutting down the Bruins offense -- and former Bs skaters Chuck Kobasew and Matt Hunwick walking out of the building victorious -- for the Bruins to finally pay some attention.

Perhaps now theyll avoid mind-numbing retaliation penalties like the one picked up by Chara on the first shift of the game, or address far too many times when forwards avoided getting in front of the net for screens and rebounds.

Interestingly enough, Julien felt the need to execute a preemptive strike on any questions about the players Stanley Cup celebration in Foxboro before the PatriotsJets game Sunday at Gillette Stadium. The Bs coach wanted to make sure people didnt assume the Bruins team overcelebrated their Cup introduction on the football field, but sources indicated to CSNNE.com that the players were on their way back to Boston in a police-escorted bus by halftime.

One thing Im going to clarify right now is yesterday at the Patriots game had absolutely nothing to do with us today. I think yesterday was great for the guys. It was great that the Patriots acknowledged us, said Julien. As professionals you certainly should be able to turn the page the next day and do your job. If theres somebody to blame, its ourselves and nobody else.

Nobody was asking the question because the Bruins are pulling the clichd act seen so many times in sports: The celebratory champs in need of a few reminders early in the season about how arduous the road was to get to the Cup mountaintop in the first place.

It's just the basics, obviously. It sounds clich, but that's what we have to do, said Patrice Bergeron. We have to go in front of the net and get some rebounds and put the puck there. Sometimes we're throwing pucks in the corner and stuff like that where we should just hold on to it and be strong on it.

The Bs are three games into their Stanley Cup reign and everybody understands how good they can be but its all for naught until they remember where they came from and how they got there in the first place.

Its a simple message, but it might have been lost somewhere between the closing seconds of Game 7 in Vancouver a humbling Monday afternoon loss to the Avalanche.

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

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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