Bruins

Haggerty: B's speeding up defense of their title

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Haggerty: B's speeding up defense of their title

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Claude Julien is fond of the phrase speed kills, and it appears his Bruins are going to be living that philosophy this season.

The Bruins captured the Stanley Cup last season with equal parts toughness, teamwork, elite goaltending and a defense that continuously held to its belief system, with good health in the postseason thrown in for good measure.

They were a very good team aspiring to be elite, and they tapped into it in the Stanley Cup Finals when they created a transition game that matched the speedy attack of the Vancouver Canucks. Part of it was a hockey team operating at its highest efficiency, but another part was the gradual shift in personnel that raised the bar for the Bs overall skating speed and skill level.

Patrice Bergeron is convinced that increased burst of team speed and wrinkle-free transition game is what allowed the Bs to eventually topple the Canucks, and its created a Bruins team this season that's attacking with a different kind of ferocity.

I dont know if guys are faster or its just that our transition game is way quicker, said Bergeron. It doesnt give guys a chance to set up, which is a good thing. We need to keep that going. If I want to put a finger on one thing its the improvement of the transition game. Weve moving. Were always on that puck and hunting. Were always moving in that transition.

Its something weve talked about since winning that Cup in Vancouver. The first couple of games we were giving them time to set up, but after that we started moving our feet, not giving them time and . . . we created chances for ourselves. We saw it in games three and four when we created a lot of chances off the rush, and thats what we need to keep doing.

Tampa Bays coaches and players talked about the chaos being caused by the Bruins waves of speedy attackers, and its clear watching the Bruins that theyre a faster team this season.

A scary thought for the rest of the NHL, which watched the Black and Gold run roughshod over them last year.

It makes all the sense in the world that the Bruins noticed the trend within the league to younger, faster players that can do damage with aggressive speed, and then strangle off another team with a swarming forecheck once they have a lead. The Bruins can now do that with a combination of personnel upgrades and simple betterment of key younger players in the lineup.

Julien said it was a combination of both that hes noticed in the early going this season. The Bruins showed off the blazing skating wheels while building up a 4-1-1 record during the preseason. They didnt have much of anything in the blah opening night loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, but the Bruins seemed to have a much easier time matching or bettering the frenetic pace of the speedy Lightning.

General manager Peter Chiarelli remarked that increases speed was simple biggest improvement he noted for the team during the preseason, and Julien said it was faster personnel and better transition working in tandem to really grease the wheels.

Replacing 43-year-old Mark Recchi with Rich Peverley immediately boosts the speed killing factor in a major way, and increased minutes for young, fast skaters like Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin continues to play into the improvement. Watching Bergeron, Peverley and Marchand move from forecheck mode into attack-the-net mode is something the coaching staff has to be pointing toward as the standard for the rest of the forward lines.

When teams are faced with the strength and intimidation factor inherent in the Bruins' way of doing things, and then attacked with speed and skill, it almost doesnt even seem fair. That only happens when the Bruins are operating at high efficiency, but thats exactly what happened for 60 minutes against the Lightning.

If you look back, Tylers now getting more minutes than he did last year, so thats speed, said Julien. Benoit Pouliot was in the lineup, and thats another guy thats adding speed. Peverleys on the top line, and -- no disrespect to Recchi -- but Recchi brought something different to that line. So there is a little bit more speed, no doubt.

But between tonight and the last game, we worked a lot on our transition game. I thought we were a little out of sync. We seemed much better tonight. If our game is where it should be, I think youre going to see some good team speed. The team we played tonight actually has unbelievable speed up front, and thats why theyre dangerous.

But now the Lightning arent the only team thumping their chest about their blinding speed.

The Bruins are still big and bad, but theyre also moving with the same lethal speed as the faster teams in the league.

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

Talking Points: Marner lights it up while Pasta struggles

Talking Points: Marner lights it up while Pasta struggles

GOLD STAR: Mitch Marner has been a problem for the Bruins during the regular season, and he’s proving to be a problem once again in the playoffs. The Leafs forward scored the game-winning goal in the second period when he jumped on a Brad Marchand turnover in the D-zone, and snapped a backhanded bid past Tuukka Rask to give Toronto a 2-1 lead. It was part of a two points, plus-2 night for Marner in his 16:44 of ice time where played strong, solid hockey, and stayed patient until Boston’s top line made a misstep that they could jump all over at the end of the period. Otherwise Marner mostly stayed out of the fray in the game and simply played a strong two-way game that was easily their best defensive effort of the series. Marner now has two goals and eight points against the B’s in the six games played thus far.

BLACK EYE: David Pastrnak just wasn’t good in this game. He missed three shots on net, had another six blocked and finished a minus-1 with one shot on net in 19:44 of ice time while clearly looking frustrated at what was going on around him. Both Pastrnak and Brad Marchand were pulling out overly fancy moves, over-passing and missing the net with their shot attempts in a clear sign that Freddie Andersen is beginning to get in their heads. If that doesn’t cease quickly in Game 7 then the Bruins could be in a world of hurt with a big chance to take a nice step this season, and move on to at least the second round if not getting any further than it. But right now the Bruins top line has gone from looking like a well-oiled machine to looking like a sputtering jalopy in need of some service at the shop.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins took over the game in the first period with their puck possession and usual dominance from their top line, and looked really ready to roll when Jake DeBrusk scored little more than a minute into the second period. But the Bruins allowed Toronto to score right back 35 seconds later and that seemed to really knock the Bruins off their pins for most of the rest of the game. It was a long rebound of a Nazem Kadri shot that was kicked out by Tuukka Rask, and then went right to William Nylander for the rebound score. The Bruins were fortunate that another goal was overturned due to goalie interference that would have quickly made it a 2-1 game, but it was clear the Bruins never really controlled the game again after the two quick goals at the start of the second period.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jake DeBrusk had the only goal for the Bruins, so he earns a little credit in a 3-1 loss. DeBrusk now has three goals in the series and was on the spot firing home a shot after a David Krejci offensive zone face-off win that gave Boston’s second line their third even strength goal of the series. DeBrusk also finished as one of only two players, along with Tommy Wingels, that ended the night with a positive plus/minus rating, and had three hits while playing fast and strong along the boards and in front of the net. There are a few other young players that haven’t looked particularly adept at the playoff-style of play in this series for Boston, but DeBrusk has thoroughly looked like he belongs since the drop of the puck in Game 1.

BY THE NUMBERS: -- minus-16: the combined plus-minus rating for Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak in the three Bruins losses where they’ve also been kept off the score sheet by the Leafs defense.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Maybe there is a little bit of [frustration], but you've got to go back to the drawing board and find the character we've shown all year. Now it's about one game." –Patrice Bergeron, on battling the frustration of losing two straight and instead getting ready for a Game 7 showdown on Wednesday night.

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Bean: Bruins created a monster that could end their season

Bean: Bruins created a monster that could end their season

It goes without saying that you should never let a team linger. The Bruins did that with the Maple Leafs, and here we are. Game 7 will be played on Wednesday. 

The longer a series goes, the more likely it becomes that one of many variables will work against you: The other goalie will get hot, one of your guys will get hurt or, most frustrating of all, you'll get unlucky. 

The Bruins let the series go longer than necessary with questionable coaching decisions and poor goaltending in Game 5. They lost that game. Now, they've created a monster: An inferior roster with a bad defense is about to knock them out of the playoffs if they aren't careful.  

MORE BRUINS: Bruins fail to finish off Leafs again, lose 3-1

Take the second period of Game 6. It was a complete reversal of fortune from Games 1 and 4. Whereas the Bruins were dominated in the second periods of those games but still emerged with a lead, they experienced the opposite Monday. 

The period, which the teams entered scoreless, started with three quick strikes, one from Boston and two from Toronto. The second Leafs goal, which came as a result of a poor clearing attempt from Charlie McAvoy, was overturned when it was determined that Zach Hyman interfered with Tuukka Rask.

From there, it was all Bruins. Were it not for strong goaltending from the either hot or freezing Frederik Andersen, they could have potted multiple goals. Instead, the game's next goal came when Brad Marchand couldn't clear a blocked point shot and Torey Krug left Mitch Marner all alone in the high slot. Marner pounced on the puck and backhanded it past a not-quick-enough Tuukka Rask to give the Leafs the lead. 

The Bruins nearly doubled up the Leafs in possession in that period. It was all Boston. But the other goalie was good and the B's were unlucky. That's hockey. It's just frustrating when "that's hockey" happens in a game that didn't need to be played. 

MORE BRUINS: Talking Points: Marner lights it up while Pasta struggles

So now the Bruins face elimination. I don't expect them to lose, but they could. You never know. The variables, the "that's hockey" thing, etc. 

Bruce Cassidy has made non-injury related changes in each of the last two games. In Game 5, he changed his bottom two defensive pairs and changed his top pairing's deployment to disastrous results. Game 6 saw him scratch Danton Heinen in for of Tommy Wingels and demote Rick Nash to the third line. 

The new line of David Krejci between Jake DeBrusk and Wingels generated a goal, but the third line of Riley Nash between Rick Nash and David Backes once again yielded fruitless 5-on-5 play from Rick Nash.

Backes turned in his sixth even-strength disappearing act in as many games. Cassidy's next move should be to put Ryan Donato in the lineup.

The rookie was not impressive in his lone game this series (Game 2), but the Bruins need scoring.

Then again, Cassidy, like most coaches, is generally hesitant to give a young player the keys. He trusts what he knows. He also likely knows he's not getting enough from some of his regulars. 

There's little-to-no chance Cassidy would sit Nash or Backes unless they were hurt. Wingels is the most obvious candidate to come back out of the lineup since Boston's fourth line is too good to be disrupted. 

But this is not where the Bruins thought they would be. They didn't think that they, one of the three best teams in the NHL during the regular season, would be looking for answers entering the seventh game of the first round. 

But here they are. The Leafs, armed with a hot goaltender and the best hockey coach on the planet, are ready to complete an upset on Wednesday. It shouldn't happen, but a sixth game wasn't supposed to, either.

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