Haggerty: It’s not pretty, but Bruins grinding through without Chara

Haggerty: It’s not pretty, but Bruins grinding through without Chara

BOSTON – Say what you will about the Bruins for the lack of style points involved, but the Black and Gold are doing what they have to do until their No. 1 defenseman comes back. 

The Bruins played a sleepy, uninspired brand of hockey for 40-plus minutes against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night and would have ended up with one of their most disappointing losses of the season had it ended just as sleepily. 

Instead, the Bruins pulled Anton Khudobin, exerted the full court press on the Hurricanes in 6-on-5 time and scored a gritty, greasy goal on a Torey Krug point shot kicked in by Teuvo Teravainen with 32 seconds left in the third period. 

That led to a 2-1 shootout win for the Bruins at TD Garden and a second consecutive game where the B’s pulled important, necessary points out when they trailed going into the third period. 

The win pushed them ahead of Tampa Bay and Philadelphia and back into the playoff standings, and makes them 2-2-1 without Zdeno Chara with the Bruins captain’s return clearly on the horizon. 

The Bruins have allowed only nine goals in the five games without Chara and haven’t buckled much at all defensively. Clearly, it’s been a major struggle to manufacture goals as it’s been most of the season, but the Black and Gold are finding a way to grind through it right now. 

“You just need performances like that. Tonight, we got them. I think that’s a little bit of a wakeup call we needed in between the second and the third [period]. To come out, lay it on the line, and know we had a one-goal game at home and we needed to get two points out of this game, find a way,” said David Backes, who was instrumental in the tying goal while fighting in front with Teravainen as the Hurricanes forward kicked the puck in the net. “We need a better performance against Buffalo, but two points is two points. We’ll take them however we get them right now. We have to regroup and come for a full 60 minutes in Buffalo [on Saturday afternoon], or else we can’t live by the skin of our teeth like this for long. It’ll come back and bite us.

“To see that puck rolling into the net, that’s what it’s all about. We should celebrate that goal as hard as any other that we score because it’s a six-man unit that had to get it in there. We’re working it around, winning battles, and a blast, and then a scrum in front. Those are the ugly goals we need to have. Again, we’ll take them any way we can get them. The ugly ones count just like the pretty ones. We were able to push that into overtime, get the one point, and again, take care of business in the shootout.”

Certainly, the Bruins made the adjustment after losing in the shootout in Philadelphia and went with their best (David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand) in the top-three shooters while watching both Ryan Spooner and Pastrnak score early for the full two-point win. Still, it’s been even more about Bruins players stepping up with Chara and John-Michael Liles out, and Torey Krug has been playing his best hockey of the season when the Bruins needed him most. 

It was Krug’s point blast that was eventually kicked into the net by Teravainen for the tying goal in the final seconds of the third period. The undersized D-man ended up with a whopping 28:07 of ice time and a team-high six shots on net. Krug now has a goal and five points in his past three games along with a plus-4 rating, and he’s generating enough offense to trump the occasional rough shift that’s just going to happen with D-man partner Adam McQuaid. 

“We’ve been dominant at times in the offensive zone over the past few games and [against Carolina] wasn’t our prettiest game; it wasn’t necessarily a good game by our standards,” said Krug. “But those are goals throughout the season that you feel like you earn and you deserve. So, we worked and we worked and it didn’t matter how long it took in the third; we were hoping it would pay off and it did.

“I think just pucks are going in, as silly as that sounds. I feel like from an individual standpoint I’ve been focusing on hitting the net for a while, and trying to make some plays and all the sudden the puck is going in. Whether that’s funky bounces or just guys taking advantage of chances I can create – it’s good. But, I’ve been focusing on defense the past few games and I’ve been given some advice and focusing on the defense and all the sudden it’s like the offensive opportunities are just appearing out of nowhere. So that’s kind of been my thought process.”

It was Krug’s turnover after falling down at the blue line that allowed the 3-on-none breakaway for Jeff Skinner that eventually turned into Noah Hanifin’s scoring point blast in the second period. But the hard-nosed defenseman simply worked to make up for it with the tying goal late in the game,  then watched his teammates do the rest with stellar goaltending and some skilled scoring work in the shootout. 

That’s exactly the kind of in-game resiliency that’s allowing the Bruins to get points out of games where it hasn’t necessarily looked great entering the final 20 minutes and it’s what is keeping them afloat with some big pieces still missing from their lineup. 

So, while there weren’t any moments of dominance or gaudy shot total advantages for the Bruins against the Hurricanes, Thursday night’s shootout win is exactly the kind of grinding game that will help Boston when counting out all those points for a playoff spot in April. 

That’s what it’s all about for the Black and Gold much more than impressing the style judges in an otherwise nondescript midweek game against Carolina that won’t be remembered by much of anybody now that it’s in the rear view. 

Slowed after a hot start, Rick Nash looking to 'open up the gates' on offense

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Slowed after a hot start, Rick Nash looking to 'open up the gates' on offense

TAMPA, Fla. – Rick Nash stormed in smoking hot for the Bruins after his trade to Boston ahead of the NHL trade deadline. He had two goals, three points and a whopping 15 shots on net in the three games after jumping into the lineup.

But it’s been a bit of an offensive slowdown for Nash with one goal and two points in his past seven games on Boston’s second line as they’ve shouldered a bit more offensive responsibility with Patrice Bergeron out. Nash, 33, it’s been par-for-the-course for a career where goals have come in bunches and offense moves in bursts that have become more spread out as he’s gotten a little older.

“It seems like my whole career I’ve always scored in bunches,” said Nash. “The chances are there. That’s the positive thing, but usually, it takes a funny one to go in to open up the [flood] gates. If we get a bit more traffic around the goalie it helps, and get a few more shots from the inside than the outside, where it’s tougher to score. You look at the highlights every night and the goals are all scored right around the net.”

Nash has enjoyed his share of chances in those seven games with 23 shots on net and at Carolina on Tuesday night was the only real stinker for him among the bunch. He's been around the net with his 6-4, 220-pound frame, working on the chemistry with David Krejci and actually skating better than most around the Bruins might have hoped for such a big-bodied player.

So, Bruce Cassidy is expecting his big power forward to finish some of those chances as he heats up a little bit offensively.

“I think he’s had one game where he didn’t have very many opportunities, but other than that he’s been around the net every night. It just hasn’t gone in as much as we had hoped,” said Cassidy. “So I don’t know him well enough to know whether that’s a trend, or if he’s just a little snake-bitten.”

The bottom line with Nash is that he’s consistently been a beast around the net and a puck possession force that can’t be derailed by defensive players attempting to take the puck from him. It will be interesting tonight for Nash playing against a number of his former teammates with ex-Rangers Ryan Callahan, J.T. Miller and Ryan McDonagh now all members of the Tampa Bay Lightning. That familiarity, along with the teams vying for the Atlantic Division top spot, should make it a special night for Nash along several lines.

“His size is his biggest asset I think, and the way he can hold onto it and control the play. Sometimes he grabs the puck and you can’t take it off his hands. He reminds me a little of Jaromir Jagr when you played him, and he sticks his butt into you and you can’t do much with it,” said former New York Rangers captain and current Lightning forward Callahan. “It’s tough to see him go to Boston where it’s a divisional rivalry, but I know what kind of guy he is, what kind of player he is…and that’s a huge pickup for Boston.”

In a huge game against the Lightning, who the B's are chasing. Facing his old Rangers buddies, Saturday night would certainly be a perfect time for the Nash goal-scoring floodgates to open for an undermanned Bruins team looking to make a stand.


Morning Skate: Talkin' B's as in Bruins, Backes, big game

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Morning Skate: Talkin' B's as in Bruins, Backes, big game

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while getting tired of the Friday news dumps.

*Here’s your Saturday morning hockey show on 98.5 the Sports Hub where yours truly, Billy Jaffe, Ryan Johnston, Bob Beers and Judd Sirott all talked Bruins, Ryan Donato, David Backes’ busy week and Boston’s big game against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight among other things.

*Alex Galchenyuk has been regaining his rhythm, speed and effectiveness for the Montreal Canadiens even as so many other things for them are spinning out of control.

*Braden Holtby has been one of a number of big-time NHL goalies that have struggled at times this season, but he may be getting his mojo back for the Washington Capitals.

*It looks like there’s never been a better time to be an NHL coach as all 31 coaches are going to keep their jobs through the season, the first time that’s happened in more than 50 years.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the details of Ilya Kovalchuk looking to return to the NHL next season after five years over in Russia.

*For something completely different: Love these galleries that Anthony Breznican does at Entertainment Weekly to break down the new Star Wars/Marvel trailers when they finally drop on the Internet. There are such great, little details to them.