Bruins

Haggerty: Forwards pull disappearing act

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Haggerty: Forwards pull disappearing act

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
VANCOUVER Its not good when you hear passenger talk after a Stanley Cup Finals playoff game.

That was the general message some of the Bruins players were sending after a largely lifeless 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks in Game 5 at Rogers Arena.

Nobody used the word passenger -- a term reserved for those who give something less than 100 percent -- but its clear there was frustration that the Black and Gold have not been able to muster a consistent effort in the three games in Vancouver after dominating on the road all year long.

It seems like we never do things the easy way here, said Michael Ryder. Its always hard. Were a character group and we grind it out. Its all about work ethic and leaving everything we have out there on Monday in Game 6.

The Bruins enjoyed three power-play chances in the first period and got a couple of quality bids by Patrice Bergeron on one of those man advantages, but Roberto Luongo was able to stop Bergeron's first shot and then deflect a follow-up rebound off his blocker.

Other than that quick flurry, the Bruins got a whole lot of nothing out of their forward group in a game that could have given them the lead in the seven-game series.

Whether it was because of the fatigue from cross-country travel, or their inability to drown out the Rogers Arena crowd, or the absence of Nathan Horton, it appeared as though the Bruins' forwards didn't bring the same work ethic that won them Games 3 and 4.

They lost the battle in the faceoff circle, got smacked around (47 registered hits by Vancouver), and they werent willing to pay the price when it came to pressuring Luongo in between the pipes. Rather than stand in front when the shots were being fired from their defensemen, the Bruins' interior players were getting pushed to the side of the net by Vancouver's active defense.

Combined with the Canuck skaters tightening up their gap in the neutral zone, it spelled doom for Bostons offensive push.

It wasn't a good night for our whole team as far as creating good, quality scoring chances, said coach Claude Julien. We had some, but the thing that we need to do a lot better is get to that front of the net.

We had guys, again, there, but on the side of the net. We need to be a little more aggressive in that area than we were tonight. That's so huge for a hockey club and we need that.

Horton, of course, was one of the biggest players the Bruins had for hunting out pucks near the net. But Friday nights Game 5 was the first time Hortons absence from the lineup was so painfully obvious.

The Bs coach attempted to mix-and-match with Ryder, Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin on that top-line right-wing spot in Hortons place, but none of them slotted in as well as Peverley did in Game 4.

Besides Bergeron, who was Bostons best forward with six shots on net, nearly every other center and winger on the Bruins roster could have been classified as a passenger after Game 5. Eleven forwards -- all but Bergeron -- combined for 10 shots on goal. Thats not anywhere close to creating enough offense in a Stanley Cup Finals game.

Ryder, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic were the worst of the bunch. All of them were forces during the games in Boston, but they accounted for exactly zero shots on net Friday night and only Ryder had something approaching a good scoring chance with a shot that rang off the crossbar. Lucic went back to being an invisible man. And not only was Marchand not scoring or playing with speed, he wasnt even doing his duties as Boston's agitator.

The defense was more than passable, shutting down the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler once again, but it got no support on the scoreboard.

I dont know how to explain it, said Lucic. Weve done it the hard way this year and this is something we have to earn. We didnt make the most of this opportunity. But the good thing is that we have another one, and we have to make the most of it.

At times we werent moving our feet and standing still. In Boston we were moving our feet to create speed and we didnt do that enough tonight. In the last five games on the road it seems like we havent had all 20 guys going like we do at home.

Even David Krejci, the Bruins' leading goal-scorer in the playoffs, struggled.

He was given over 20 minutes of ice time during the game and managed only a single shot on net while adjusting to a series of right wingers who couldn't replace the smiling guy who was there all year.

In fact, watching three different players rotating around on the right wing while Julien found a workable combination was reminiscent of last season when there was no suitable replacement for Phil Kessel. Remember how that turned out?

The Bruins have to hope for a different result when they take the ice Monday night for Game 6 in their own building, and then need to devise some kind of offensive game plan that will actually work in British Columbia.

That is, if they're able to force a Game 7.

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

Rask recovering from concussion, may be ready to play on Saturday

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Rask recovering from concussion, may be ready to play on Saturday

BRIGHTON -- Tuukka Rask is quickly making his way through the concussion protocol and may return to action this weekend.

The Bruins netminder skated with the other injured players ahead of Monday’s main team practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and is on track to rejoin the team at regular practice on Tuesday barring any setbacks in his concussion recovery. That would leave Rask with just a couple of games missed after getting trucked by Anders Bjork at practice last week, and it would give the Bruins back their No. 1 goaltender after Anton Khudobin let in five goals vs. the Sabres on Thursday night.

“He’s in the protocol and progressing well,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “He’ll probably join us [on Tuesday] for the next step if there are no ill effects from today. That’s a positive. If there are no setbacks, I think Saturday is a more realistic [timetable for a return].”

The hope would be that Rask could start elevating his game when he does return, and play better than the goalie that’s posted the 1-3-0 record, 3.30 goals against average and .882 save percentage thus far this season. But first things first with the recovery to his first career concussion as an NHL goalie, and the set of hurdles that must be passed before Rask is again allowed to jump back into game action as early as this weekend.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings from Bruins practice with Rask, David Krejci and Noel Acciari all skating prior to practice, Patrice Bergeron staying off ice with a maintenance day and Kevan Miller skating in main practice with a maroon, no-contact jersey:

Marchand-Schaller-Bjork
DeBrusk-Backes-Pastrnak
Agostino-Nash-White
Beleskey-Kuraly-Vatrano

Chara-McAvoy
Krug-Carlo
Miller-Postma

Khudobin

Schaller's sterling play helping to ease Bruins' pain

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Schaller's sterling play helping to ease Bruins' pain

BRIGHTON -- Injuries, and some really tough losses, have put a bit of a damper on the start to the Bruins season. But there've also been a couple of unquestioned bright spots.

And one of them is Tim Schaller, who's been a strong, consistent performer in the first couple of weeks of the season. The New Hampshire native -- and lifelong Bruins fan -- was penciled in as a fourth-line winger throughout most of training camp, but he’s played everywhere as injuries have ravaged the B's roster.

The high point was probably centering Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak (and notching an assist) in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Sabres, and filling in for a late-scratched David Krejci with a very different set of skills. Certainly he’s been a standout for the Bruins with his physicality, including stepping up and fighting man mountain Erik Gudbranson after Gudbranson's nasty boarding hit on Frank Vatrano last week, and he’s also kicked in a couple of goals and three points in seven games thus far this season.

“It’s a reactionary thing, and that’s just in a person,” said Bruce Cassidy of fighting Gudbranson. “It’s a character thing because you don’t have a lot of time to think about it. Good for Timmy. That earns a lot of street cred not only in your own locker room, but the other teams notice it. too.

"We know with the goals that he can obviously chip in [offensively] and he’s doing a great job for what we’re asking him to do. He’s probably going to take ownership if he’s out there with some young guys on a line, and if he can be a leader and get that line playing the right way every night that is very valuable to us.”

Schaller’s game to this point is a continuation of what he showed in his first season with the Bruins last year, when the 26-year-old posted 7 goals and 14 points in 59 games while becoming a staple in Boston’s bottom-6 group. He’s once again shown pretty good straight-ahead speed for a big man, and a willingness to take his 6-foot-2, 219-pound frame straight to the net.

“I’ve been moving well and I’ve got the two goals, so personally I’m happy [with my game],” said Schaller. “Hopefully others can feed off what I’m trying to do out there, and we get a more well-balanced game [as a team]. I had a good season last year, and what was really good was that I knew that I had more to give. That’s what I’m trying to do this season.

“I can obviously produce more. I had a good start to last season and then I kind of fell off a little bit. So hopefully I can be a little more consistent for this entire year.”

That would be a very good thing for a Bruins team that can use him in a bottom-6 energy role when its roster is healthy, and will fully utilize his versatility in times of injuries and adversity.