Bruins

Haggerty: Looks like 'malaise' is perfect word for B's

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Haggerty: Looks like 'malaise' is perfect word for B's

BOSTON -- Three days ago Peter Chiarelli openly wondered if malaise was too strong a word to describe what his team was currently battling in the wake of Stanley Cup greatness.

After watching the Bruins drop a 2-1 game to the hated Habs at TD Garden Thursday night, lowering them to 3-6 on the season and dead last in the Eastern Conference standings, Chiarelli might want to rethink his assessment.

The Bruins reached some of their modest objectives for the game by scoring first for the first time in seven games, and they actually scored a power-play goal despite not having any player with a Black and Gold sweater actually touch the puck.

But the Bruins once again looked like a team shooting pucks at a net front shrink-wrapped in plastic wrap, and fell asleep for an entire period after a nice start had bought them a rare lead in the first month of the season.

Its something that we are working on addressing daily, said goaltender Tim Thomas. We realize we need to start putting wins in the win column. Were going to try our best to make that happen.

So whats it like going from NHL penthouse last June to Eastern Conference outhouse after the first month of the new season? For Claude Julien, its akin to thumbing the pages of a Stephen King novel, or waking up in a cold sweat after an evening being chased around the ice by Dave Semenko.

I dont know if I imagined any of this stuff right now. Id probably get nightmares thinking about how were playing right now more than anything else, said the embattled Bs coach, who is running out of answers with a team alternating between white-knuckle frustration and nonchalance. Its more about our team right now. I dont care where we are in the standings. What I care about is how we play, and right now, were not playing at all to the level we should be.

Much could be made of a poorly executed Adam McQuaid pass in the third period that was intercepted and turned into the game-winning strike by Tomas Plekanec after McQuaid blocked the Montreal centers first shot.

But its difficult and patently unfair -- to pin the loss on a defenseman making his return to the lineup after missing two weeks with a headneck injury. The evenings defeat and the month-long funk arent about a couple of individual mistakes here or there that are killing the team.

Its about so many other things that speak to a team-wide plague affecting many different players and areas at once, and a team that badly needs some kind of rallying point to rally around during a downbeat season.

It was about a second period where the Bruins were outshot by an 18-9 margin and looked like a hockey club that wanted it a lot less than their fellow Les Habitants cellar dwellers in the Northeast Division. It's about a Bruins power play strategythat's again shooting blanks, and managed only a feeblethree shots on Carey Price in six different changes with the man advantage.

It was about a Bs team that continues to struggle finishing off offensive plays, and ranks 20th in the NHL averaging 2.22 goals per game.

Its about a fresh-legged Bruins team thats managed to lose two out of three games to opponents on the second night of back-to-back games, and is frittering away a distinct early season home-ice advantage by dropping five out of their first seven games on the TD Garden ice.

Its about a team that seems to have splintered a little bit without an experienced, steady voice of experience in Mark Recchi, who seemed able to consistently rally his teammates together during times of strife.

Its about a desperation play by Raphael Diaz diving across the Montreal crease to smother a Patrice Bergeron scoring attempt on a wide-open net and displaying the kind of lunatic-fringe urgency the Bruins havent had enough of in the first nine games.

There are players getting there on an occasional basis, but the Bruins arent good enough to win if they dont have nearly all their players skating with the same passion, purpose and energy.

Some of the Bruins assumed that the sight of the CH jerseys invading their home ice would snap them out of their seasonal funk.

But that didnt quite work, either, once the Bs entered the second-period slumber party and started sleeping the game away against an opponent that should have been wracked with fatigue.

The Bruins seem to be done denying theres a problem, and thats a good first step. Instead theyre intent on fixing thing that have broken down inside their dressing room, and finding a way to marry together their physical execution and mental focus into full 60-minute efforts.

Individually, David Krejci is a team-worst minus-5 on the season and looks completely lost between passive invisibility and forcing things way too much in a futile attempt to get the feel back into his playmaking game. Nathan Horton was once again an invisible man where he was a Game 7 hero just a few months ago.

So many Bs players look nothing like their Stanley Cup selves.

Right now its about finding answers and not getting frustrated or down on ourselves. Were character guys in here and we need to show it, said Bergeron, who was credited with the only goal of the game for the Bruins. We need to find a way. Were obviously not happy or satisfied.

Being in last place isnt something we would have expected at all. Weve done it ourselves. We cant put the blame on anything but ourselves, and now weve just got to do the work to get back and find our game. It starts in the room and talking about it. We need to find ways to be more prepared and realize who were up against. We cant say that its a long year. We need to turn this around if we dont want to get behind the eight ball.

Chiarelli said that one Stanley Cup-winning team told him their particular hangover lasted for an excruciating 20 games, but the Bruins might not have that kind of slack this season. Already the Bruins stand a full 12 points behind the Eastern Conference leaders in Pittsburgh, and the season hasnt even moved into the second month of play.

The bad news: things become extremely road-game heavy in the second half of the year.

Perhaps the reeling Bruins need to pull a move like Montreals decision to jettison assistant coach Perry Pearn that sparked a two-game winning streak this week. Or perhaps some of Chiarellis inquisitive trade phone calls to opposing GMs will yield some kind of skill forward that can help an offensively challenged bunch and finish off some of Tyler Seguins setups.

With each passing game that the Bruins dont get the results, the goals, and anything remotely resembling last years bunch of Cup winners, the odds of permanent alterations to the teams fabric become more of a certainty -- no matter how reluctant everyone is to mess with a proven winner.

David Krejci, Adam McQuaid forced out of Bruins win with injuries

David Krejci, Adam McQuaid forced out of Bruins win with injuries

BOSTON – The Bruins returned Patrice Bergeron and David Backes to good health and their lineup on Thursday night, but they also saw a few more players get banged up in their win over the Vancouver Canucks. 

David Krejci exited Thursday night’s 6-3 win over the Canucks with an upper body injury after scoring a power play goal, and Adam McQuaid also had to leave the game after dropping to one knee to block a shot with his right leg. McQuaid was also already banged up after taking a shot off his knee in last weekend’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, so taking another shot off the leg certainly wasn’t a helpful development. 

“He blocked a shot, so he’ll get evaluated tonight or tomorrow. I don’t know how serious – he blocks a lot of shots. This one stung him obviously so we’ll see how it turns out. Adam [McQuaid] has been doing that for years around here. He’s one of the unsung heroes in that locker room. Doesn’t get a lot of credit for what he does, the tough parts of the game, blocking shots, sticking up for your teammates,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He actually manages the puck very well. He’s not a flashy player. He’s not a guy that just throws it away either. He makes good decisions with it, and every team needs an Adam McQuaid. We’re certainly fortunate to have him.”

With Krejci it appeared that he suffered some back spasms after getting cross-checked, and that’s what ended up forcing him out of the win. Cassidy doesn’t foresee it being a long-term thing with Krejci, who finished with a goal and two points in 8:21 of ice time centering Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak.  

“He has an upper body; he had to leave. He wasn’t feeling too terrific today, and then he got, I think there was a cross-check there. He tried it, but couldn’t continue [playing]. I think he had some spasms, but I don’t think there’s anything long-term there at all.”

It remains to be seen if either McQuaid or Krejci will miss any time with the bumps and bruised suffered on Thursday, but it goes without saying that the Bruins hope they can stay in a lineup that’s beginning to take shape with the full group. 

Haggerty: Patrice Bergeron returns as game-changing force for Bruins

Haggerty: Patrice Bergeron returns as game-changing force for Bruins

BOSTON – To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the presence of Patrice Bergeron is a major game-changer for the Boston Bruins. 

Bergeron finally felt good enough to return to the B’s lineup after missing the first five games of the season with a lower body injury, and the impact was immediate and unmistakable with a goal and four points in a 6-3 win for the Bruins over the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden. It was also a far-reaching impact with the Bruins center pumping life back in the B’s power play with a return to his bumper position, returning a top penalty killer to the Bruins rotation, bringing normalcy back to the forward group by slotting fellow forwards back into their rightful spots and simply giving the B’s their best all-around player back. 

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Clearly it was a joyous moment for Bergeron to get back on the ice and play after getting a couple of good days in on the practice ice leading up to Thursday night. 

“It’s hard no matter what it is. You know, when you’re missing games, when you’re missing time, it’s… you miss being out there with the guys and battling with them and going through what we have to go through as a team. It’s good to be back,” said Bergeron. “You don’t know what to expect obviously [after a long layoff]. You’re trying to hope for the best. I don’t want to say I was surprised [at his high level of play] because you want to be at your best every time you step on the ice.”

Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Anders Bjork finally skated together for the first time after building chemistry all throughout training camp, and they finished with four goals, 10 points, a plus-6 rating and 13 of Boston’s 35 shots on net for the game. It was the way that the Bruins roster was drawn up headed into the season before they had a five-game detour due to the injuries, and the hope is that’s the way it will continue to look for the Black and Gold moving forward. 

“I mean it’s pretty evident, you know, the way [Bergeron] played out there. He just, it’s incredible the way he came back and dominated the game after being out for that long, you know?” said Brad Marchand, who finally has his longtime partner-in-crime back. “He’s just such a big part of the group. He’s able to calm things down in the room, on the bench, and he leads by example. He just does everything that a top guy does.”

Perhaps most striking of all was the emotion and organization that the Bruins played with having Bergeron and David Backes back in the lineup. The breakouts, reloading counter-attacks and defensive zone coverage all had more noticeable structure, and the Bruins were able to get the wave after wave attack from their forward groups that spurred on goals both during 5-on-5 play and when special teams were involved. 

Some of that is getting two highly talented players like Bergeron and Backes back from injury, and some of it is getting an important, tone-setting leader like No. 37 back for everything he does off the ice as well. 

Bergeron set up the important answering goal in the first period by firing a puck that created a rebound for Bjork to clean up, he did the same for David Krejci’s power play to close out the first period scoring, he created the turnover that led to Marchand’s goal in the second period and then he sniped home his own goal from the bumper spot to finally clinch things in the third period. It was clear that Bergeron is still navigating through discomfort and some level of injury while playing at this point, but his hockey IQ and his gritty toughness are allowing him to still be a highly effective player. 

“I think it was self-evident out there that the play on the ice, first of all, built a matchup against whoever we really want. The Power play obviously [was a] big impact there. I think it’s just morale as much as anything, on the bench and in the room,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Those intangibles, leadership, first shift of the game, he’s standing up. They had scored a goal and [he’s] kind of settling the troops down, talking about the details of the game. 

“[He’s talking about] finishing your routes on the fore-check and reloading all the way to our zone.

[It’s the] stuff that coaches preach a lot, but goes in one ear and out the other sometimes. When you hear it from the leaders of the group, it means so much more. To have that back in the room and along with David Backes, those are guys that are just vocal players that bring a lot in that aspect. It’s generally, a quiet group. That doesn’t mean you can’t be effective and win as a quiet group, but it just helps sometimes to have a little bit of that energy.”

While it was a clearly a feel-good story to see Bergeron back in his proper environs on the ice, it was also just as apparent there’s still some lower body discomfort with the Bruins center. He looked like he was in pain or laboring at times out on the ice, and admitted after the game that the lower body injury might be something he’ll need to manage for the time being. That would tend to mean that once again this isn’t something that’s going to go away anytime soon, and Bergeron will again need to grind his way through the pain. 

“That’s the million dollar question, right? I don’t know what to say to that. I guess yeah, I mean I’m feeling good,” said Bergeron. “But there’s… we might manage a little bit for quite a while. But I’m feeling good and tonight was no issue.”

Clearly Bergeron and the Bruins will gladly take it if he can be a difference-maker like he was on Thursday night with a four points, eight shot attempts and plenty of hard-working shifts in his 20:58 of ice time for the game. They’ll just need to keep their fingers crossed that No. 37 can keep suiting up and playing at a high level, and that the 32-year-old can avoid any further problems after already sitting out the first five games of the regular season.