Bruins

Haggerty: Bruins take a step back in Montreal

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Haggerty: Bruins take a step back in Montreal

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

MONTREAL Just when it seemed time to start discussing the Bruins as runaway Northeast Division winners and a potential top seed in the Eastern Conference, some old questions surfaced Tuesday after Bostons disappointing 4-1 loss to the Canadiens.

Tuukka Rask wasnt very good, the Boston defense was flat-footed, and the Bs power play once again looked pedestrian despite the presence of PP ace Tomas Kaberle.

Beyond that, the Bruins could have truly driven a stake through the Habs, all but ended the division race, and really pushed the Philadelphia Flyers for the top spot in the conference.

That they didn't -- or couldn't -- was disconcerting.

Because it wasn't so much about the loss itself as it was about how they played.

I dont think the Canadiens had to work very hard for those first two goals, said coach Claude Julien. The first one, the play comes out of the corner and a player is allowed to come right in and take a whack at the puck. We need to take care of that. The second one we leave a player behind us all by himself.

So its not like they really had to work hard for those first two goals in our mind and that really set us back. This is where its important to have good starts, and we didnt have a very good start giving up those first two goals. We cant say that were happy with the game we played tonight, and thats what were looking at.

And even beyond all that, there's the possibility of Zdeno Chara getting slapped with a multigame suspension for his hit on Max Pacioretty, which resulted in Pacioretty's scary-looking, head-first collision into the stanchion between the benches.

It seems virtually everything the Bruins did on this night fell flat.

Johnny Boychuk attempted to provide a physical spark early in the game with an open ice hit on P.K. Subban in the first period, as he did in last seasons playoffs. But he missed on the locomotive hit, and then lost a fight to Montreal enforcer Ryan White following the play.

Then there was the strange decision to start Tuukka Rask after Tim Thomas appeared to be shaking and favoring his left hand during the morning skate at the Bell Centre. Thomas never came into the game in relief despite an off night for Rask.

Julien insisted the decision to play Rask was based on the young goalies four-game winning streak and Thomas unimpressive career goals-against average against Montreal.

I think against this team Timmy has his worst goals-against average than any other team, and we felt it was an opportunity, after winning four in a row, for Tuukka to step up, said Julien. We made that decision and felt comfortable with it, so well live with it.

But why on earth would a team go away from one of its best players -- and a goaltender whos leading the NHL in goals against average and save percentage -- in one of the biggest games of the season if there wasnt some other underlying reason?

Rask wasnt terrible in the first period, but he wasnt great either.

It was the Bruins' defense that lost battles in front of the net that allowed Lars Eller to march toward the cage while popping in a Paul Mara rebound for the first goal. Then both Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley made weak plays in the defensive zone with the puck, and the napping Bruins defense practically invited Eller to sneak behind them for a score.

Rask had no chance at that one.

But the 23-year-old goalie got pretty good looks at goals by Brian Gionta and James Wisniewski in the second period, and did nothing to stop either.

The first period I can somehow understand giving up those goals, but those last two there shouldnt happen when you look at it as a goalie, said Rask. Its hockey. It happens sometimes. Youve got to shake it off and at least we won a period up here.

The surprising decision to start Rask, the missed chances early at some intimidating physicality, the defensive breakdowns and the wilting Bs power play all speak to issues that need to be addressed before they become problems.

In some ways, Tuesday's loss can be justified. The Bruins had taken 15 of the last 16 potential points, and were due for a stinker. The Canadiens are a bad matchup for the B's; they've won only 2 of the last 11 games against Montreal. Nor has the Bell Centre been a welcoming place for them. Their last two losses here -- Tuesday night's, and the Jan. 8 meltdown in which they blew a late 2-0 lead in a 3-2 overtime defeat -- were among their worst of the season. Plus, the Habs were fighting to stay alive in the division race, and were highly motivated after the literal beatdown they took in Boston last month.

But Julien put it best: "We cant say that were happy with the game we played tonight, and thats what were looking at."

There were too many troubling patterns, and trends, on this night.

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

David Krejci, Adam McQuaid forced out of Bruins win with injuries

David Krejci, Adam McQuaid forced out of Bruins win with injuries

BOSTON – The Bruins returned Patrice Bergeron and David Backes to good health and their lineup on Thursday night, but they also saw a few more players get banged up in their win over the Vancouver Canucks. 

David Krejci exited Thursday night’s 6-3 win over the Canucks with an upper body injury after scoring a power play goal, and Adam McQuaid also had to leave the game after dropping to one knee to block a shot with his right leg. McQuaid was also already banged up after taking a shot off his knee in last weekend’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, so taking another shot off the leg certainly wasn’t a helpful development. 

“He blocked a shot, so he’ll get evaluated tonight or tomorrow. I don’t know how serious – he blocks a lot of shots. This one stung him obviously so we’ll see how it turns out. Adam [McQuaid] has been doing that for years around here. He’s one of the unsung heroes in that locker room. Doesn’t get a lot of credit for what he does, the tough parts of the game, blocking shots, sticking up for your teammates,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He actually manages the puck very well. He’s not a flashy player. He’s not a guy that just throws it away either. He makes good decisions with it, and every team needs an Adam McQuaid. We’re certainly fortunate to have him.”

With Krejci it appeared that he suffered some back spasms after getting cross-checked, and that’s what ended up forcing him out of the win. Cassidy doesn’t foresee it being a long-term thing with Krejci, who finished with a goal and two points in 8:21 of ice time centering Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak.  

“He has an upper body; he had to leave. He wasn’t feeling too terrific today, and then he got, I think there was a cross-check there. He tried it, but couldn’t continue [playing]. I think he had some spasms, but I don’t think there’s anything long-term there at all.”

It remains to be seen if either McQuaid or Krejci will miss any time with the bumps and bruised suffered on Thursday, but it goes without saying that the Bruins hope they can stay in a lineup that’s beginning to take shape with the full group. 

Patrice Bergeron returns as game-changing force for Bruins

Patrice Bergeron returns as game-changing force for Bruins

BOSTON – To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the presence of Patrice Bergeron is a major game-changer for the Boston Bruins. 

Bergeron finally felt good enough to return to the B’s lineup after missing the first five games of the season with a lower body injury, and the impact was immediate and unmistakable with a goal and four points in a 6-3 win for the Bruins over the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden. It was also a far-reaching impact with the Bruins center pumping life back in the B’s power play with a return to his bumper position, returning a top penalty killer to the Bruins rotation, bringing normalcy back to the forward group by slotting fellow forwards back into their rightful spots and simply giving the B’s their best all-around player back. 

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Clearly it was a joyous moment for Bergeron to get back on the ice and play after getting a couple of good days in on the practice ice leading up to Thursday night. 

“It’s hard no matter what it is. You know, when you’re missing games, when you’re missing time, it’s… you miss being out there with the guys and battling with them and going through what we have to go through as a team. It’s good to be back,” said Bergeron. “You don’t know what to expect obviously [after a long layoff]. You’re trying to hope for the best. I don’t want to say I was surprised [at his high level of play] because you want to be at your best every time you step on the ice.”

Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Anders Bjork finally skated together for the first time after building chemistry all throughout training camp, and they finished with four goals, 10 points, a plus-6 rating and 13 of Boston’s 35 shots on net for the game. It was the way that the Bruins roster was drawn up headed into the season before they had a five-game detour due to the injuries, and the hope is that’s the way it will continue to look for the Black and Gold moving forward. 

“I mean it’s pretty evident, you know, the way [Bergeron] played out there. He just, it’s incredible the way he came back and dominated the game after being out for that long, you know?” said Brad Marchand, who finally has his longtime partner-in-crime back. “He’s just such a big part of the group. He’s able to calm things down in the room, on the bench, and he leads by example. He just does everything that a top guy does.”

Perhaps most striking of all was the emotion and organization that the Bruins played with having Bergeron and David Backes back in the lineup. The breakouts, reloading counter-attacks and defensive zone coverage all had more noticeable structure, and the Bruins were able to get the wave after wave attack from their forward groups that spurred on goals both during 5-on-5 play and when special teams were involved. 

Some of that is getting two highly talented players like Bergeron and Backes back from injury, and some of it is getting an important, tone-setting leader like No. 37 back for everything he does off the ice as well. 

Bergeron set up the important answering goal in the first period by firing a puck that created a rebound for Bjork to clean up, he did the same for David Krejci’s power play to close out the first period scoring, he created the turnover that led to Marchand’s goal in the second period and then he sniped home his own goal from the bumper spot to finally clinch things in the third period. It was clear that Bergeron is still navigating through discomfort and some level of injury while playing at this point, but his hockey IQ and his gritty toughness are allowing him to still be a highly effective player. 

“I think it was self-evident out there that the play on the ice, first of all, built a matchup against whoever we really want. The Power play obviously [was a] big impact there. I think it’s just morale as much as anything, on the bench and in the room,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Those intangibles, leadership, first shift of the game, he’s standing up. They had scored a goal and [he’s] kind of settling the troops down, talking about the details of the game. 

“[He’s talking about] finishing your routes on the fore-check and reloading all the way to our zone.

[It’s the] stuff that coaches preach a lot, but goes in one ear and out the other sometimes. When you hear it from the leaders of the group, it means so much more. To have that back in the room and along with David Backes, those are guys that are just vocal players that bring a lot in that aspect. It’s generally, a quiet group. That doesn’t mean you can’t be effective and win as a quiet group, but it just helps sometimes to have a little bit of that energy.”

While it was a clearly a feel-good story to see Bergeron back in his proper environs on the ice, it was also just as apparent there’s still some lower body discomfort with the Bruins center. He looked like he was in pain or laboring at times out on the ice, and admitted after the game that the lower body injury might be something he’ll need to manage for the time being. That would tend to mean that once again this isn’t something that’s going to go away anytime soon, and Bergeron will again need to grind his way through the pain. 

“That’s the million dollar question, right? I don’t know what to say to that. I guess yeah, I mean I’m feeling good,” said Bergeron. “But there’s… we might manage a little bit for quite a while. But I’m feeling good and tonight was no issue.”

Clearly Bergeron and the Bruins will gladly take it if he can be a difference-maker like he was on Thursday night with a four points, eight shot attempts and plenty of hard-working shifts in his 20:58 of ice time for the game. They’ll just need to keep their fingers crossed that No. 37 can keep suiting up and playing at a high level, and that the 32-year-old can avoid any further problems after already sitting out the first five games of the regular season.