Haggerty: Bruins continue to stumble against Canadiens at home

Haggerty: Bruins continue to stumble against Canadiens at home

BOSTON -- One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Much like Charlie Brown was never going to actually kick the football before Lucy pulled it away, it feels like the Bruins are never again going to beat the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden. They failed again Saturday night, never holding a lead at any point as they dropped their ninth straight home game to the Habs, 4-2.

Bruins-Canadiens games in Boston have become the hockey version of 'Groundhog Day', as the same patterns emerge over and over again: Montreal's speed forces the Bruins into mistakes with the puck; Habs players draw the B’s into taking bad penalties; Carey Price dominates in goal. It's been that way ever since the last Bruin victory over Montreal at the Garden, on Jan. 12, 2012. To put it perspective, Tim Thomas and Tyler Seguin were still Bruins back then.

Saturday night's loss, though, had a little added twist: The B's second-period woes, such a problem last year, reared its ugly head again.

“[The second period was] terrible, and that’s where it really hurt us," said Claude Julien. "I thought we played well (in the first period) . . . But the second period came back to haunt us. We were flat coming out. We didn’t make good outlet passes, and we spent way too much time in our own end, and because of that, it gave them some momentum. And by the end of it, we cheated ourselves a little bit, and pucks ended up in the back of our net . . .

"[When] you give up four goals to Montreal, and you have Price at the other end, it’s pretty hard to beat that team. So we needed to be better . . . [We] shot ourselves in the foot with some real poor mistakes, and we can’t afford to do that against the Montreal Canadiens."

The Bruins were essentially done for after a couple of very typical Boston-Montreal plays went against them in the middle 20 minutes.

The first was a defensive coverage breakdown in the D-zone that allowed both Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher to operate with time and space. Five B’s players simply watched as Gallagher smoked a one-timer from the outside of the left circle that eluded Anton Khudobin.

Then, later in the period, John-Michael Liles misread a play where he pinched deep in the offensive zone and couldn’t control the puck. As a result, Alexander Radulov worked a 2-on-1 with Phillip Danault to skilled perfection on a typical Habs transition play.

"I think our second period has got to be better overall," said Patrice Bergeron. "We talked about them having a good forecheck . . . [but] we didn’t make the easy plays too many times. When you do that, it creates turnovers and you spend more time in your zone than you’d like to."

From there, it was just more of the same. Playing with the lead, Montreal was able to neutralize Bergeron and Brad Marchand; Bergeron never got a shot on goal. Price came up big when he had to, shutting down a couple of Ryan Spooner chances.

And Bruin weaknesses were exposed, things Julien and the coaching staff may have to address. It looks like it’s time to move on from the Joe Morrow/Torey Krug defense pairing; it's simply not working. (Krug, in particular, was a minus-3 and made mistakes all over the ice.) They also may need to switch things up with the forwards, as they're getting zippo offensively from their second and third lines.

To their credit, the Bruins never packed it in. They hung in and made plays in the third period to keep the game close, right up to the 6-on-3 advantage they had at the end. But there are no consolation prizes or moral victories in the Boston-Montreal rivalry, especially when the Habs have made it so one-sided.

To be a true rivalry, you need equal rivals. And the Bruins, especially at home, aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.

Haggerty: OT non-call latest instance of Marchand not getting respect he's earned

Haggerty: OT non-call latest instance of Marchand not getting respect he's earned

BOSTON – It’s high time that Brad Marchand starts getting a little more respect around the league.

The latest example came Monday night in the Bruins' 5-4 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at TD Garden when Marchand was the victim of a non-call in the extra session on a play that could have won the game for Boston.

Marchand busted in behind the Columbus defense after taking a stretch pass and had a partial breakaway chance on the kind of play that he’s scored on in his sleep this season in the extra session. Rather than giving one of the NHL’s best goal-scorers a chance to show off his dazzling skill in the 3-on-3 OT, Pierre Luc-Dubois wrapped Marchand with both hands from behind in bear hug-type fashion and hauled down the Bruins left winger to prevent him from getting a shot off at the net.

Young referee Kendrick Nicholson got a good look at the play as it happened and didn’t call either a penalty shot (which was warranted, but probably a long shot in this situation) or a minor penalty for holding that was absolutely called for in this situation. Maybe it was an inexperienced referee simply blowing a call in a big moment, but one would hope it’s not the referees continuing to turn a blind eye toward just about anything happening with Marchand.

“Listen, they make their calls. I was more confused about, like I said, I thought there were clearly two icings that directly resulted in goals. That was disappointing to me, but life goes on,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “We got our power-play opportunities; we were able to covert on one of them, so no. Hopefully, the next time we’re in overtime, a call goes our way. It’s just the way it is.”

It’s always been an uphill battle for Marchand to get the benefit of the doubt from officials, both when it comes to penalties for and against him, based on his past reputation, but that needs to start changing based on his ascension to NHL superstardom in the last few years. Marchand has 31 goals this season and only Alex Ovechkin has scored more goals in the last three seasons than No. 63 for the Bruins, and he’s earned the right to get the star calls in those clutch moments in overtime.

Marchand wasn’t available for comment after the game and the reason was that he was understandably furious about the non-call and probably didn’t want to say something he was going to end up paying dearly for.

It’s time for the NHL to stop busting Marchand’s balls about embellishment and ticky-tack penalties and instead roll out for the NHL royal red carpet for the league’s best and brightest.

Can you imagine Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin on a breakaway in a similar instance in OT with nothing getting called after they were pulled down from behind while moving in all alone for a sure thing game-winner?

The easy answer is “no”, and it’s time for the Bruins organization to begin pushing for Marchand to get those calls and probably even to go to bat for him in those instances so he doesn’t need to keep chirping the league. The same goes for the seemingly NHL-wide habit of breaking down everything on video that Marchand does on the ice looking for the latest transgression or incident can get him in trouble. It all goes for the clear lack of “star” respect toward Marchand despite him being a back-to-back All-Star and Hart Trophy candidate.

Monday night was just the latest example in a decision that might have cost the Bruins a point in overtime, but it’s time for the NHL to start giving No. 63 the treatment the rest of the league’s best players get as the playoffs, and many more big, game-changing calls, approach for the Black and Gold.  



Banged-up Bruins lose two more -- Rick Nash, McQuaid

Banged-up Bruins lose two more -- Rick Nash, McQuaid

BOSTON – It’s another day and another injured player, or two, for the Boston Bruins.

Veteran right winger Rick Nash was a late scratch for the Bruins on Monday night against the Blue Jackets after getting banged up in last weekend’s win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid had to exit due to injury in the third period of Monday night’s 5-4 overtime loss at TD Garden.  

“[Nash] got hit in Tampa, so we thought he was fine. He had an upper-body injury,” said Bruce Cassidy. “This morning, pregame skate, we thought he’d be fine, and it turned out after pregame skate, early afternoon, he wasn’t. So, you know, we had to make a call for Anton Blidh.”

The Nash absence forced the Bruins to recall Blidh from Providence on emergency recall and plug him into the lineup not using him in the last couple of road games in Florida, and it also pushed 21-year-old rookie Ryan Donato into a top-6 role alongside David Krejci in his NHL debut. Clearly things worked out for Donato with a 1-goal, 3-point performance in his first NHL game, and that along with some quality organizational depth is helping them withstand some of the injuries.

McQuaid was held to just 10:42 of ice time that was the fewest among all Bruins D-men on Monday night, but it was unclear exactly what befell him on the ice injury-wise.  

It is getting a little ridiculous for a Bruins team that’s missing Patrice Bergeron (fractured right foot), Zdeno Chara (upper body), Jake DeBrusk (upper body), Charlie McAvoy (sprained left MCL), David Backes (right leg laceration) and now may have to go without Nash (upper body) and McQuaid (undisclosed) as well. Clearly it’s something the Bruins will have to play through for the time being while simply hoping that it all conveniently clears up ahead of the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

“You know, you call a player up [from the AHL], right? We signed one out of college; that helped. So, that’s it. [The injuries] are uncontrollable to a certain extent. It’s kind of enough, now. I would agree. We’ve had our share, so let’s get these guys healthy and get ready to play,” said Cassidy. “I don’t know. You’ve got to play the game in front of you and you just hope the string of, kind of, tough luck, is over.

“That’s it. It’s a physical game. We’ve said all along, to have successful seasons, both regular and playoffs, you need a certain level of health. That’s what we’re hoping, that these guys come back, and that’s it. Until then, we plug the holes and play the game in front of you.”

Plugging those holes will continue to get more and more challenging if the Bruins keep losing players from their lineup on a nightly basis as they may have on Monday with both Nash and McQuaid now banged up as well.