Bruins

Haggerty: B's not good enough to take East

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Haggerty: B's not good enough to take East

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

NEW YORK In the end the Bruins are going to get exactly what they deserve.

Thats hockey justice, and thats how it should be.

The Bruins won the Northeast Division for the second time in three years, and wiped the floor with the dreaded, despised Canadiens in their final emotional meeting on home ice this season.

Even better, the Bs enjoyed knuckle-busting, Big Bad Bruins-style wins over the Thrashers, Stars and Habs in victories that highlighted the regular season, and unified the team.

But the Black and Gold didn't maintain that pedal-to-the-medal consistency, too often flubbing away chances with a lack of focus or inability to deliver the killer punch. It prevented them from claiming true Eastern Conference elite status, and it was symbolized by a gruesome third period at Madison Square Garden on Monday night. The B's -- who once held a 3-0 lead in the game -- surrendered three third-period goals, lost to the Rangers 5-3 and, in the process, all but guaranteed they won't climb into the first or second seed in the East.

The Bs had some compelling crescendo moments during the regular season and still should be considered in the conversation for Stanley Cup-worthy teams given the wide-open Eastern landscape.

But they never did quite enough to become the top dog, and now that chance has gone by the boards with less than a week of regular-season games remaining.

When youre up 3-0 it doesnt matter what stage of the season theyre in or were in, said Dennis Seidenberg, in a lament that could transfer over to a good-but-not-great regular season. Youve just got to do your job.

Their lack of elite-ness was hammered home with an exclamation point as the Bruins surrendered five consecutive goals after building up a 3-0 lead, and coughed up three scores to the Ranges in a third period thats been their domain all season.

Thats what we learned tonight, said coach Claude Julien. If we dont respect the game plan, then thats what will happen. There were a lot of breakdowns in the third. Our defensemen got caught out of position a lot tonight, and obviously there a couple of goals that goalie Tim Thomas would like to have back.

Up-front we were okay for the first 30 minutes, but then we stopped play and got cute. When you get cute thats what happens. Its a disappointing loss, but you hope your players walk out of here feeling like theyve learned something.

A Boston victory would have pushed the Bs to within two points of both the Flyers and Capitals with three games remaining, and the Bruins set to face East patsies in the Isles, Senators and Devils. Good teams dont melt under pressure or make uncharacteristic mistakes when things get a little intensified, but thats exactly what happened in front of a New York crowd thirsting for the playoffs.

The Bs floundered amid dopey penalties, blown defensive assignments and some weak-sauce offensive possessions, and have blown any realistic chance of catching up to both teams with only three games left.

After a dominant first period that saw the Bs outshoot the Blueshirts by a 19-6 margin and utilize goals from Daniel Paille and Nathan Horton to cobble together a 2-0 lead, the Bs immediately backed off once Chris Kelly made it 3-0 in the second period.

The gritty, relentless offense lost its teeth. Thomas looked all too human roaming out of position and letting pucks get past him. The defense appeared tired, weak, confused and soft. The Bs have proudly thumped their chest about leading the NHL in goal differential during the third period this season, but they were outplayed and outshot by a 12-7 margin over the final 20 minutes of swarming Rangers.

Dennis Seidenberg appeared to have been fitted for concrete boots on his feet. Zdeno Chara was flat outplayed by Rangers defenseman Marc Staal. And on the game-tying goal, Tomas Kaberle vacated the front of the net to guard the invisible man and allowed Brandon Dubinsky to creep onto the doorstep.

That doesnt even count the second-period penalties for David Krejci, when he decided he didnt like how rough Dan Girardi was being with him. In fact, if anything came to light in Monday nights game, it was that the Bruins defensemen could learn a thing or two by watching Staal and Girardi physically dominate play at both ends of the ice.

We got up 3-0 and . . . I dont know. We were taking it to them and then we just back off for a while, said Thomas. Our plan was to come out in the third and turn it around, but as you could see thats not what happened.

They were desperate and they got us to play the game the way they wanted us to in our own zone.

Instead of authoring a resounding victory that could have helped vault them toward the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference, the Bruins are stuck fast at the No. 3. After another loss to the scrappy Rangers, the Bs will have to hope the Blueshirts cant climb all the way up to the six spot for a first-round date.

Its become clear that the strong, tough, blue-collar Rangers -- armed with enthusiastic shot-blockers and a world-class goaltender would be the most difficult first-round match for the Bs. The Bruins have size, strength and experience advantages over their other potential opponents (Canadiens, Sabres, Hurricanes), but not so much over New York. The Rags took the season series by a 3-1 count, and outscored the Bs 11-8.

The third-period meltdown was the latest indignity, but the Rangers have consistently been a tough draw for Boston over the last three seasons. Unfortunately for Boston, New York drew into a tie with the Canadiens for the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference and appears to be on a first-round collision course with the third-seeded Bruins.

Had the Bruins managed to stay in the hunt for the No. 1 seed, they could have had a first-round meeting with the injury-depleted Habs or the physically and emotionally drained Sabres. But they've lost control of their destiny after one too many careless losses.

Julien said he hoped his team had learned its lesson about going away from the game plan following the stunning Monday night loss to New York, but that's impossible to assume. If the Bruins haven't learned this lesson yet, what makes anyone think they've learned it now?

They lacked that killer instinct too many times during the regular season, which is why they're not going to finish atop the Eastern Conference. The No. 3 seed certainly isnt anything to scoff at, but it could have been so much more.

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

Morning Skate: 'After Hours'? Injured Jagr is open

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Morning Skate: 'After Hours'? Injured Jagr is open

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wondering if it shouldn’t be more of an issue that potential Red Sox manager Alex Cora was good buddies with Dustin Pedroia when the two played together in Boston.

*Jaromir Jagr suffers a lower-body injury and then goes on Hockey Night in Canada’s “After Hours” program to show once again how wonderful it is to be “The Jagr.”

*The Ottawa Senators get Erik Karlsson back this week, but now they’ve lost power forward Bobby Ryan for a month with a broken finger.

*The Montreal Canadiens are getting exposed for the very flawed team that they are during a brutal start to the 2017-18 season.

*Keep an eye out on the Los Angeles Kings now that they’ve suffered an injury with Jeff Carter and do appear to be in the running for the playoffs this season.

*New Jersey Devils fans help a singer belt out the national anthem after there might have been a case of forgetting the words.

*Doug Gilmour might not have always enjoyed the prying eyes while playing in Toronto, a case that gives you an idea what it’s like to be a pro hockey player in a market like Toronto where everybody knows your name.

*For something completely different: There’s no doubting that Aaron Judge has brought life and energy back to the Yankees and that’s something that’s very good for baseball.

 

Brutal loss shows Bruins reaching their limit for injuries

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Brutal loss shows Bruins reaching their limit for injuries

BOSTON – It feels like the Bruins might finally be hitting their critical mass with all of the injuries in the first few weeks of the season.

The B’s were down Tuukka Rask, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and David Krejci as the new injuries Saturday night and clearly missed those players, along with the others currently out with injuries in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden. The Bruins had a three-goal lead in the second period and a two-goal lead in the third but frittered away both while allowing the hapless Sabres to outshoot them 21-6 in the third and overtime.

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Anton Khudobin battled his rebound control for most of the game while facing 42 shots on net but it was the absence of Miller and McQuaid in the D-zone that made it a little too easy for Buffalo to push Boston when it mattered late.

Torey Krug was on the ice for the last three of Buffalo’s goals and was out penalty killing late in the third period in a spot where he would never have been in if the B’s were healthy on the back end.

“That’s where the appreciation comes in for the Kevan Miller’s and the Adam McQuaid’s of the world. They’re not always flashy, but in those instances, they’re money. They get it done. And that’s why they are paid to get it done,” said Bruce Cassidy. “So yes, we miss them. But, last week we missed other players. So the guys that are out there, it’s up to them to get it done, right?

“It didn’t happen tonight, and hopefully we learned from it and can be hungrier the next time. There’s not much else to analyze that. That was it. Someone had to play in that situation. We pick guys who we figure would get the job done, and it didn’t work out for us. Next time, we’ll keep working at it.”

As part of the injury factor, there are also players that are banged-up and back in who are also clearly not back to full strength. Patrice Bergeron (lower body) and David Backes (diverticulitis) are both back from their early-season issues and Krug continues to play with a healing fractured jaw, but all three key players combined for just a single assist and three shots on net in a game that featured nine goals.

Krug was the most noticeable weak link in the loss as he was overwhelmed in the D-zone on the game-tying goal when an Evander Kane shot bounced on him on its way into the goal. Krug was down on his stomach after losing his balance while battling in front of the net. Krug then was out for an extended period in OT before bumping a Sabres player around the crease who fell into Khudobin just as Ryan O’Reilly was pushing the game-winning goal past him.

Krug spoke on Saturday morning about feeling like things were starting to come together for him but he finished a minus-3 against the Sabres with his big, bad teammates out with injuries. He's a startling minus-8 after the first two weeks of the season.

“Obviously we have to do a better job tonight. Two-goal lead in your own building, it’s got to be the hardest place for the opposing team to come in and overcome that. We’ve got to be better,” said Krug. “I thought I had an opportunity to win a battle in the corner on that loose puck. Just trying to swat away and all of a sudden it comes out the other side, and we just couldn’t overcome. That’s survival mode. “Especially when they were able to make changes like they were. We just got to stay calm, composed, and make sure we’re not getting beat one-on-one. We obviously managed it for a while, but we just couldn’t get the puck back.”

It was also clearly about Khudobin, who had a big chance to put the Bruins team on his back with Rask out with a concussion. The Russian netminder made 37 saves and at times looked energetic and ready to battle between the pipes but at other times couldn’t make the clean save that the Bruins needed in order to get a whistle and calm things down. In OT, Khudobin couldn’t make a clean glove save on a Rasmus Ristolainen tester from the high slot that would have allowed the Bruins to get some tired players off the ice in the 3-on-3 OT.

Instead, Krug, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were out on the ice for 2 minutes, 15 seconds and eventually got beaten on O’Reilly’s play that took the puck straight to the Boston net. Cassidy called it an “erratic” night for Khudobin when they needed calmer, more poised play from their goaltender and that was clearly a reflection of the Black and Gold missing Rask.

“[Khudobin] was erratic. He battles. We love that about him. He battled to the end. [He] certainly made his share of saves. We need to be better in front of him,” said Cassidy. “But there were times that, there were fires that needed to be put out [on plays] that shouldn’t have been necessary. But that happens sometimes.

“[There were instances] in the third period, plus overtime, where we needed to calm the game down. Whether it’s a face-off, even right before the overtime goal, we had opportunities to get possession out of that pile. They came out with it. And that’s what I said. They were hungrier than us. Late, they won more pucks. If we win that puck out of that pile, we might not be talking about losing. Maybe we get out of trouble and it goes our way. We’ll never know.”

Maybe things would have gone the Bruins way if they had more of their walking wounded back and contributing. Instead, it feels as if the B’s are being tested with new, damaging injuries with each passing day. A number of those had a direct impact on a brutal loss to the Sabres on Saturday night. One has to wonder if there are more of those coming until the Bruins can start stabilizing their medical situation.