Bruins

Haggerty: Canucks providing concentration test for B's

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Haggerty: Canucks providing concentration test for B's

WILMINGTON, Mass. The Bruins are entering the grind portion of their schedule, so a simple philosophy is going to benefit them greatly: simply put their heads down and start pushing forward.

After a cushy first three months the Bs will play 12 games in 18 days starting Wednesday night in New Jersey against the Devils. Theyll have three back-to-back games in that span, and fatigue is going to become a very real factor while focus is going to wane for some.

The road tilt against the Devils will be followed Thursday night by their one and only meeting of the season against the Calgary Flames on the Garden ice, and that will be a challenge by itself. The Devils are cranking at playoff-level efficiency this season, and the Flames will be desperate to finish off a seven-game road trip strongly after going 2-3-1 through their East Coast swing thus far.

The collective Black and Gold eyes should be trained solely on each of those individual games, but theres one problem. Theres also a flopping, biting, tire-pumping gorilla in the room distracting the Bruins as they strengthen their focus on two midweek games against the Devils and Flames.

Thats right.

The Vancouver Canucks invade Causeway Street on Saturday for a much-anticipated rematch of last years Stanley Cup Finals. The Saturday matinee at TD Garden represents the only time Vancouver and Boston will face each other unless they both make it to the Finals again in June.

Oh, its going to be interesting, admitted Brad Marchand. I know that the fans and everybody else are going to be into it. Itll be good to get it over with. I dont think Ive ever even talked about it once this year, though.

Its just another game in our minds, though. I havent heard any of the guys even talking about it once yet. We both realize nothing is going to change what happened last year. It doesnt matter how they come in and play. Its only one game.

Alex Burrows will get his comeuppance for biting Patrice Bergerons finger, Roberto Luongo will undoubtedly face entire sections of Bs fans furiously waving tire pumps and the Sedin Twins will be entering the same unmerciful no respect zone they found so intimidating in last years seven game series.

It will essentially come down to a 60-minute chance for players on both teams to right whatever wronged them last spring when a retaliation penalty might have been the difference between winning and losing.

The Bruins will have plenty of motivation headed into that game after the bad blood built up over those seven hate-filled games, and the Canucks should be looking for payback. Its not really in their team fabric to cause too much trouble and its really not in their best interest to beat Boston at their own game.

But it will be fun to see how things play out. Theres no love lost for Marchand in the Vancouver dressing room after he used one of the Sedins as a boxing speed bag during the Finals. A whole group of Bruins would clearly love a piece of Burrows after he targeted one of the NHLs classiest players in Patrice Bergeron with his biting antics.

Those are just the obvious ones. Perhaps Mason Raymond still wants a piece of Johnny Boychuk after the hit that knocked him out of the Finals last season, or maybe the entire Bruins roster wants to take their shot at Maxim Lapierre.

Well, actually the last one is a stone-cold definite.

Vancouver really lost some respect in the eyes of the other teams around the NHL with behavior unbecoming of an NHL team during the Finals, and perhaps they see Saturdays game against the Bruins as a chance to win some of that back. It was Vancouver that was rag-dolled around the ice and Mark Recchi labeled the Canucks the most arrogant team hed ever played against following his retirement from hockey after a 20-year Hall of Fame career.

But all of that speaks to just how easily the Bruins could get sucked into the hype leading up to Saturdays game rather than the challenge at hand in New Jersey and Calgary. Their head coach doesnt see potential distraction as an issue at this point with two games coming up in two days.

I havent heard any of the guys talking about. We havent talked about it. Weve become accustomed to focusing on the next game in front of us, and for us its about bouncing back from a game where we didnt like the way we played, said Claude Julien. We need to focus on getting our own game back where it needs to be rather than putting the focus on any of that stuff.

Its vital to get the train back on the tracks after dropping a stink-bomb in Dallas for one of their most uninspiring losses of the season.

That cant happen if their minds are wandering toward jacking up Burrows rather than getting the next available two points.

Weve really matured and had success as of late because were really not looking past the next game, said Marchand. We make sure the focus is where it needs to be on New Jersey tomorrow night, and then after that it will be on Calgary. Well worry about that game when its here.

The Bs have uncovered some newfound maturity this season while defending their Cup championship, and nowhere has been that more evident than taking things one game at a time during an 82-game marathon. Theyve been able to focus game-to-game all season, but a looming battle with the Canucks will put that dedication and patience to the test in the next few days.

It all starts when the Bruins get back to work in New Jersey.

Familiar faces get the best of the Bruins in Vegas

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Familiar faces get the best of the Bruins in Vegas

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – Perhaps part of the confused look from the Boston Bruins on the ice Sunday night in Las Vegas was a nagging feeling of déjà vu they never could shake. The Vegas Golden Knights took a 3-1 win over the Bruins for their fourth win in five tries this season, and handed the Bruins their third truly dreadful-looking defeat in five games played on the young hockey season.

It was tough to avoid the feeling that the Golden Knights were basically “Boston Bruins West”, and that was never too far away from notice as things played out on Sunday. Old friend and former Bruins play-by-play man Dave Goucher and ex-B's defenseman "Sheriff" Shane Hnidy are the friendly faces on the Vegas TV telecast, and were on the Jumbotron pregame in a skit with Carrot Top, of all people, to run down the arena's safety rules in a funny and well-produced video.

Former Bruins PR guru and Beverly native Eric Tosi is in charge of the media relations with the Golden Knights, and has been a busy, busy man along with the rest of the Vegas franchise getting the expansion club off the ground. He was even busier this past weekend, albeit with a relaxed smile on his face, as 20 members of the Tosi clan made the road trip out to Vegas to see the first NHL game between the two franchises.

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And there were the actual familiar faces on the ice with ex-Bruins Malcolm Subban and Colin Miller excelling against their old team. Subban only needed to stop 21 shots in the victory, but was able to finish his first NHL start and earn his first career NHL win against the Bruins franchise that left him unprotected on waivers just a couple of weeks ago.

The Bruins didn’t make the 23-year-old Subban sweat much during the game with pedestrian shots that hit the first-round pick squarely in the jersey crest, and pretty much zero attempts to beat his questionable glove hand.

"We know Malcolm well," said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. "He's a good first-shot goaltender for the most part. We wanted to put some stress on him and make him uncomfortable on those second ones, and I don't think we did a good job on that."

But give Subban credit for calming down his mental approach and refining his technique enough to play solid positional goaltending against the Bruins, and gaining some sweet revenge in the process.

Subban wasn’t gloating about it or basking in any kind of vengeance against his former team, but instead just expressed happiness at doing the job after stepping in for the injured Marc-Andre Fleury. It remains to be seen if Subban is going to be able to hold down the fort against the teams that will inevitably test him more than the hapless Bruins did, but he gave his team a good chance to win on Sunday.

"It's a great feeling. I made a lot of friends [in Boston], played with a lot of great teammates and (had) a great coaching staff. I'm just happy to get the win. The biggest thing was just not thinking, staying focused, and staying in the moment. It feels really good to get the first win in your first game," said Subban, "My first shot I got good control on it and that got me in the game a lot. You never know how the game is going to go in the NHL. It’s really technical. Sometimes you don’t get a lot of shots, so you gotta stay focused, and I felt I did that tonight.

“I thought I played pretty good. The biggest thing was my depth and not getting too deep in the net. Give myself the better opportunity to make the save. I feel like I did that (Sunday). There weren’t too many high chances. [There were] a lot of textbook saves and just having good rebound control. I’m happy to get the win.”

Miller didn’t factor into the scoring for the Golden Knights against the Bruins, but he was extremely active with three shots on net and eight shot attempts in 18:25 of ice time. He got plenty of power play time, was a plus player and looks like he might get the chance to develop his game in Vegas that hadn’t quite played out over the previous couple of years in Boston.

The Bruins won’t return to Vegas until next season, but the hope has to be those same Golden Knights’ familiar faces won’t get the best of the B’s when they come for their one-and-only visit to TD Garden at the beginning of November.

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Only five games into season, Bruins already sending off bad vibes

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Only five games into season, Bruins already sending off bad vibes

LAS VEGAS -- Even though it's only five games into a new regular season, it feels like the Bruins are in danger of going off the tracks.

They finished their three-game Western road swing Sunday with an aimless 3-1 loss to the expansion Golden Knights, which came on the heels of a wretched defeat in Colorado and a victory over the winless Coyotes. Sunday was particularly disheartening, as they never tested their ex-goalie, Malcolm Subban, putting only 21 mostly harmless shots on net against a player they gave away on waivers just a few weeks ago,

They may only have three losses in five games, but it sure feels like there's trouble starting to brew in Bruins land.

“It could be a lot of different things,” said Brad Marchand about the loss to Las Vegas. "We may not have been as mentally prepared for that game as we thought we were. They wanted it more than we did. They out-battled us in a lot of areas and they were the better team. We were making it hard on ourselves. We were trying to do too much with the puck, and not directing enough of the pucks toward the net. You can’t get rebound and you can’t get bodies there if the puck isn’t going there.”

That is a lot of different things. A lot of different problems:

-- They couldn’t fight to get to the front of the net against a rugged Vegas defensive group that was going to make them battle to get there.

-- Once again they had too many passengers along for the ride, with both Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano failing to even be a blip on the game’s radar screen. Spooner suffered a lower body injury midway through the game, but while he was out there he was a non-factor once again. 

-- It felt like there was no flow at all to Boston’s game, with breakouts dogged by sloppy passing and players who weren’t hard enough on the puck.

-- When they did get a chance to create something they either missed the net with their shot, or opted not to even take the shot in the first place. 

-- They lost 67 percent of the 57 draws taken during the game, and saw Spooner, Riley Nash and David Krejci and Ryan Spooner go a combined 8-for-29 in the face-off circle.

-- They chased the puck for long stretches and certainly didn’t ever put together anything approaching a consistent, driving pressure in the offensive zone.

Missing stalwart veterans like Patrice Bergeron and David Backes certainly isn’t helping. It makes the Bruins a much smaller group up front that can be pushed around by bigger, stronger defensive units.

But even so, there’s a sense the Bruins can’t consistently bring their 'A' game to the rink with them and don’t seem to have much fight when they fall down by a couple of goals. Trailing by just two goals going into the third period, the Bruins had four shots on net for most of the final period until a late flurry produced a score by David Pastrnak.

Perhaps of more concern, though, is the growing feeling that the Bruins aren’t all on the same page.

Marchand vaguely referenced that the Bruins weren’t prepared to play Sunday, and Tuukka Rask said he’ll no longer comment on anything except his own goaltending. Rask has always been candid and willing to be frank about any shortcomings after Bruins losses, but it appears that’s not something that is any longer welcome inside the B’s dressing room.

“I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on,” said Rask. “I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much. We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

Meanwhile, Krejci was similarly short in his postgame thoughts and started talking about avoiding pointing fingers after a frustrating loss.

“There’s no reason to point fingers," he said. "Yeah, we lost a game and it was a frustrating loss. But it’s just the fifth game of the season, so we don’t need to make a big deal out of it. We’re going to back to Boston, we’re going to work hard in practices and we’re going to get ready for the next game.”

Clearly, the fact this stuff is coming to the surface just five games into the season is a cause for concern. But it makes sense, given the way the Bruins are letting an easy portion of the season slip through their fingers.

In their first 10 games of the year, they're facing only one team that made the playoffs last season and they've got plenty of spaced-out stretches in the schedule to get off to a strong, healthy start. Instead they’re losing to subpar teams and highly unproven goalies, and doing so with a real lack of energy or purpose on the ice.

Certainly management would be smart to think about shipping underperforming players like Vatrano back to the AHL in place of Peter Cehlarik or Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. And a few more games like Sunday’s snooze-fest could advance trade talks for a player like Matt Duchene.

But there aren’t going to be any easy answers. It comes down to hard work and hunkering down together as a team, and Sunday’s pitifully inept loss in a very winnable situation was yet another sign the Bruins aren't even close to being there yet.

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