Bruins

Haggerty: Dark days ahead as sides break off talks

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Haggerty: Dark days ahead as sides break off talks

NORTH SMITHFIELD, R.I. Dark days are indeed ahead for the NHL, and those that love it so dearly.

The NHL and NHLPA broke off talks on Tuesday with no progress serving as the biggest buzzword emanating out of the meetings in New York City. There was ample evidence that both sides are ready to move on to heightening their defenses rather than continue working to find some very elusive middle ground.

Thats the very definition of the word "discouraging."

The NHL released its first revenue loss projections due to the lockout, and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the league will lose roughly 100 million due to the cancellation of the preseason.

But it gets even gloomier than that.

Whispers have kicked up in Canada, largely due to the sports radio megaphone enjoyed by Toronto radio host Billy Watters, that the NHL could begin setting into motion plans for replacement players if theres no end in sight for the lockout. Its a far-fetched notion that would appear to be patently illegal in places like Quebec and Alberta, so theres that.

But just the mention conjures up images from when the NHL last utilized replacement players, or worse, a bad Keanu Reeves movie.

At the very least, the NHL is expected to begin cancelling regular season games over the next couple of days with the Oct. 11 NHL regular season debut an impossible task at this point.

One player on the AHLNHL bubble that would likely be asked to take part in any theoretical replacement player scenario was quick and forthright in their response when asked if they would cross over.

Theres no way. That kind of thing stays with you for your entire career, said the player. Guys want to make it to the NHL the right way and be accepted by the brotherhood of players. That would never happen for anybody that crossed the lines while the lockout is going on. Good luck finding players willing to do that.

And good luck to finding customers willing to pay NHL prices to watch a patently inferior project.

In another move thats going to sting the NHL and commissioner Gary Bettman, ESPN and the KHL have reached an agreement on a plan to televise Russian League hockey games and give fans an outlet to watch familiar NHL players like Zdeno Chara. The KHL games will be broadcast starting this week on ESPN3, which is a live stream channel not offered as part of the cable packages.

But the mere action of ESPN getting involved with a competing pro hockey league has to deepen the concern of Bettman and the NHL owners no matter how mild it is that the hockey consumer is ready for life to go on without the NHL. In the age of live-streaming video, satellite television and 100 percent coverage of everything under the sun on the Internet along with minor league and college hockey, diehard puck fans will find another outlet while the owners and players prepare for battle over a billion dollars.

So both the NHL and NHLPA camps have decided to go their separate ways for the time-being with the start of the regular season less than two weeks away. They cant agree on what constitutes the all-important Hockey Related Revenue and, according to CBC rink side reporter Elliotte Friedman, they cant even agree on who foots the bill for NHL players with over 600 games played that are guaranteed their own single hotel room on the road per the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

That is crazy given that the NHL raked in 3.3 billion last season, and that much more important things sit on the brink of obscurity.

Granted its not all something out of a disaster flick with Bettman and his Board of Governors hellbent on breaking the unions back, however.

The NHL acknowledged that a federal mediator might get involved if things continue on the same untracked pace for the next few weeks, and the league could still pull off an 82-game season provided a new CBA is in place by the first week of November.

But things must feel pretty real for Bruins fans as they watch key players like Chara and Patrice Bergeron pick up stakes, and head for Europe to play hockey until something breaks stateside. That wouldnt be happening if there was an end to the money madness in sight.

And when the first regular season games of a promising NHL season get chopped away this week, fans will likely be left with that same empty, hollow feeling for the second time in eight years.

Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

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Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center on Saturday night, which gave Boston four of a possible six points in its California road swing.
 
1) The kids stepped up at a great time for the Bruins. Boston needed some young players to step up and fill in for the injured veterans up front, and they got it on Saturday night. Jake DeBrusk was the main playmaker on both goals in the first period, and the Bruins got goals from rookies DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik and Danton Heinen. It was Cehlarik’s first NHL goal and the 10th point of the season for Heinen, who continues to show signs that he is going to be a productive, reliable winger  even though he didn’t start the season at the NHL level. DeBrusk finished with a goal and an assist and twice used his speed and aggressiveness taking the puck to the net to create scoring chances: On the first goal it was Cehlarik who finished the loose puck after DeBrusk’s net drive created a rebound, and on the second it was DeBrusk simply beating reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns to a race for the puck and then snapping it up and over San Jose backup goalie Aaron Dell. Cehlarik became the sixth Bruins rookie to score the first goal of his NHL career with Boston this season, and it all shows tangible results of the youth movement they were fully embracing this season. There will be peaks and valleys with so many young players in the lineup, but Saturday night turned out to be one of those high-water marks.

2)  At their healthiest, the Bruins can be a fast-skating, skilled team that will be equal parts offense and defense in a hard-working style that features pace and creativity in the offensive zone. The Bruins aren't healthy right now, obviously, and aren’t going to find success that way as attested by the fact that they hadn’t won two games in a row this season until Saturday night in San Jose. With a number of players already out of the lineup, Torey Krug now injured as well and Tuukka Rask taking an extended rest in favor of a red-hot Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are actually playing a very different brand of hockey right now. With Rask not playing -- and not allowing the types of bad or soft goals he's given up so far this year -- they can play a little more conservatively and try to make a two- or three-goal output in a game actually stick as the game-winning margin. Just check the box score,  as the Bruins blocked a whopping 30 shots and conversely the Sharks blocked just 12. Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Robbie O’Gara all had blocked shots in the final few minutes, and Brandon Carlo stepped in front of a wide-open chance for Burns in the third period off a clean offensive zone faceoff win for the Sharks. Those are all gritty, tough plays in the D-zone that you don’t always see, and it perhaps comes a little more naturally when the Bruins are making the clear choice to feature their defense and goaltending right now. It may not be sustainable once Anton Khudobin inevitably cools off a little bit, but for now it’s pretty darn effective.


 
3)  After watching him stop 36 of 37 shots for the win on Saturday night, the Bruins need to see this thing through with Khudobin until he loses a game. Khudobin is 5-0-2 with this season, with a .949 save percentage in three appearances in November. He's playing the best he's played in the last couple of years. Right now Khudobin is actually leading the NHL with a .935 save percentage for the season, and that really contrasts to Rask's .897 save percentage. Certainly part of it is about the Bruins selling out defensively in front of him and blocking 30 shots in the win while knowing they didn’t have to play again until Wednesday night. But it’s also about the Bruins backup goaltender playing himself into a position where the B’s should ride him until he cools down a little bit, and give Rask some more time to figure out what is slowing him down between the pipes right now.
 
PLUS
-- DeBrusk made a couple of big plays in the first period that led to goals for the Bruins, and he finished with a goal, two points, a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net in 15:49 of ice time. He has a goal and three points in three games since being a healthy scratch last weekend against Toronto.
 
--Khudobin made 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were outshot 17-5 and it certainly seemed like they were going to get run out of the building. Instead Khudobin stood tall.
 
-- Heinen finished with two goals and three points on the three-game trip and iced the game for the Bruins with a backdoor strike in the third period after Kevan Miller had dashed up the right side of the ice to create the chance. Heinen is pushing up near the Bruins team leaders in some offensive categories and looks like he belongs in the NHL this season.
 
MINUS
-- Burns was burnt on each of the Bruins' two first-period goals, he actually missed the net with 12 of his 16 shot attempts, and he had seven giveaways in a pretty sloppy game managing the puck. Burns hasn’t had a great season to date, and Saturday night was a good example of things not going well for him this year.
 
-- Paul Postma finished with just eight minutes of ice time in the win, and was part of the poor defensive coverage on the Sharks goal by Joonas Donskoi in the first period that ended up getting overturned on video review. Postma didn’t show much else after that only playing a handful of minutes over the remainder of the game, and based on his early performance looks like he’s only going to be a seventh defensemen in Boston.
 
-- Here’s a hearty boo to the 10:30 pm West Coast starts on Saturday night that only the diehards, or those getting paid, are going to closely watch on the weekend leading up to Thanksgiving. Congrats to you if you were one of the lucky ones that decided to stay up and watch a game that didn’t end until after 1 a.m. in the East.  

Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

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Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while battening down the hatches for Thanksgiving week.
 
-- When longtime Bruins follower Clark Booth opines about the Black and Gold, I tend to listen. And he's not happy with the Bruins' salary cap situation at this point in time. It should be noted that this was written before they won the last two games. But some of those truths still remain self-evident when it comes to the B’s.

-- Kevin Bieksa will never stop talking about former teammate Rick Rypien, or about the factors that ultimately led to his tragic passing.
 
-- Alex Ovechkin is truly living up to the “Russian Machine Never Breaks” mantra these days, which led to the creation of an entire blog about the Capitals.
 
-- This Saturday Night Live skit with Chance the Rapper playing a clueless hockey reporter was funny, even to people that have been covering the league for 20 years and still struggle to pronounce a name like Brady Skjei.
 
-- The good, the bad and the ugly courtesy of FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mitch Melnick from last night’s Montreal blowout loss to the Maple Leafs that probably could have just been called the ugly, the ugly and the ugly.
 
-- It’s 20 games into the season, and the Buffalo Sabres media are wondering what’s wrong with their team, and star Jack Eichel.
 
-- For something completely different: It sounds like some of the NFL rank-and-file players want to know why Roger Goodell deserves $50 million and a lifetime private plane.