Bruins

Haggerty: Will this be a season of change for the Bruins?

Haggerty: Will this be a season of change for the Bruins?

BOSTON -- It’s looking like time for some serious smelling salts and a heater when it comes to the Boston Bruins.

Who knows? Maybe they can ask for those underneath the Christmas tree.

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The Bruins dropped their sixth game in eight tries on Tuesday by failing to show up against a New York Islanders team flailing its way through the season, falling behind 3-0 before ultimately losing 4-2. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand were both a minus-2 with a couple of train-wreck goals allowed in the first period, Tuukka Rask was pulled for the first time this year after giving up three goals on just 13 shots, and both Bruins special teams units were outplayed by a woebegone Isles outfit. Things finally kicked into high gear in the third period with two goals and 23 shots on net, but that only served to underscore how pathetic Boston’s game was during the first 40 minutes against a beatable opponent.

"It’s too late to start playing [in the third period] the way we should be playing for the full game," said Bergeron. "We got back in the game and that was a good third period. That being said, it was way too little too late. It’s really simple. You go back to playing your game and being ready from the drop of the puck.

"We talked about this last stretch before the [Christmas] break. It was three games [remaining], now it’s two, but it was three games that we wanted to get those points from. We needed to do the job and we didn’t do that tonight. We didn’t show up for the first two periods and we paid for it."

For all intents and purposes it looked like Boston’s best players weren’t ready to go when the puck was dropped, and that’s unforgivable for a Bruins team nearing full tailspin mode. The Bruins have allowed four goals in each of the six losses over this eight-game span, which speaks to the defensive deficiencies. On offense, they're averaging 2.29 goals per game this season -- 26th in the 30-team league -- despite racking up gaudy, Corsi-friendly shot totals because, with an offense overloaded with playmaking centers but short on true wingers who can play heavy and finish off plays in the danger areas, they don’t fight to get close to the net.

While it’s true the Bruins are still in a playoff spot, it’s a precarious position: Just two points ahead of the significantly underachieving Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers.Their flaws have been masked by the brilliance of Rask and David Pastrnak (still second in the NHL in goals scored despite having missed seven games and counting), so on nights like Tuesday -- when Rask is bad and Pastrnak is missing -- the weaknesses are clear for all to see.

And going through the motions -- as they did at the start of Tuesday night's game -- shouldn’t be an option.

Claude Julien picked up on that after watching Marchand and Rask smash into each other playing the puck behind the Boston net in the first period, and thereby setting the game’s tone by giving up an easy goal to Anders Lee. It snowballed from there and it looked to Julien like the Bruins simply weren’t ready to play..

“What you saw in the third period, I don’t know why we don’t bring that in the first," he said. "We wait until we’re in a hole, and the desperation, and I guess our work ethic and our compete level, should be that at the first. Not in the third, when you’re down 3-0. So somehow we’ve got to find that. It’s not good enough, and we know that we struggle to score goals. Let’s be ready to play, and the way we gave up goals tonight, it didn’t look to me like we were ready to play.”

We can assure Julien it didn’t look that way to the 17,565 in attendance, either, and it looks like this flawed, half-hearted bunch needs a jolt to snap out of it.

Some of that will come when Pastrnak returns from his surprise elbow procedure. But one has to wonder if the Bruins are also mulling a coaching change at this point.

There are far too many key players who have underperformed in the first three months of the season, and there was no excuse for not being ready to play last night. The power play has been an unmitigated disaster, and it took the coaching staff months before finally installing Pastrnak on the top PP unit just prior to his elbow procedure. All of these things can be filed under the heading of the coach’s responsibility, and anybody looking at it objectively would be hard-pressed to say Julien has gotten the most out of all his players this year.

If the Bruins falter in these last two road games in Florida and Carolina heading into the holiday break, one has to wonder if there will be a lump of coal and perhaps a pink slip in Julien’s stocking this year.

It’s one of the few cards left to be played by Don Sweeney and Cam Neely to spark a stagnant hockey club, and it would make sense given the urgency that all levels of B’s upper management should be feeling after missing the playoffs in each of the last two years. It might not be fair in the grand scheme of things, but one has to wonder if Tuesday night’s half-hearted loss to New York could be a warning sign that a change behind the bench is approaching on Causeway Street. 

David Krejci Line looks to shoulder their share of Bruins offensive burden

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

David Krejci Line looks to shoulder their share of Bruins offensive burden

TORONTO – The Bruins top line totaled up 20 points in the first two games, and the B’s took both of those against the Maple Leafs. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak had zero points in Game 3 on Monday night at the Air Canada Centre, and the Bruins ended up dropping that game to the Leafs. 

So clearly the Bruins’ playoff fate could be strongly tied to the ebbs and flow of their top forward trio, but the hope with the B’s is that the formula won’t be that simple throughout the postseason. A big part of the reason the Bruins gave up a boatload to the New York Rangers in exchange for Rick Nash was to acquire another forward capable of shouldering a scoring load, and turn Boston’s second line into a much more dangerous group. 

All three members of the B’s second line, David Krejci, Rick Nash and Jake DeBrusk, all have goals during the best-of-seven series, but they also came up empty in Game 3 with Krejci and DeBrusk only managing two shots on net between them. They know that they’re capable of more given the offensive talent on the ice, and given that so much defensive attention is being paid to neutralizing Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak rather than them. 

“We had lots of good looks. I missed a couple. We had lots of good looks that just didn’t go in,” said Krejci. “So we need to work extra harder [in Game 4] to bury those chances and have them end up in the back of the net. We need to stick to the game plan and respect the game plan.”

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Nash had five shots on net and some pretty good chances, but the best scoring chance was a DeBrusk dangle and pass to Krejci wide open at the net. It looked like the puck hit a rut on the ice and Krejci was never able to settle it down for a shot despite the nice-looking pass, so that line is left biding their team for another chance to carry the offense. 

“I think that’s the main reason why we’re the second line. We all have attributes that can help this team. It hasn’t really come to the table yet, but I still thought that we generated chances [in Game 3], and I think our whole team did. It just wasn’t bouncing our way,” said DeBrusk. “It’s frustrating, but at the same time you take the positives from it. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to get harder from here on in. Hopefully our top line does their thing, but if not then we’ll be ready to hopefully help out in that category.”

The Bruins top line is ready, willing and able to shoulder the lion’s share of the scoring burden for the Black and Gold, and most nights they’re going to be able to live up to that kind of responsibility. But if the Bruins want to beat the good defensive teams and become a much more difficult team to play against in the postseason, they’re going to need to start getting production from a second line that should be built to play the power, puck possession game in the postseason.

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Patrice Bergeron named Selke Trophy finalist for seventh straight season

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Patrice Bergeron named Selke Trophy finalist for seventh straight season

TORONTO – At some point, they’re going to have to start thinking about re-naming the award after Patrice Bergeron himself.

The Bruins center was named a finalist for the Selke Trophy on Wednesday night for the seventh consecutive season, and is going for his NHL-record fifth trophy for being the best defensive forward in the NHL. Bergeron was named a finalist along with Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier and Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar. Bergeron finished his 12th NHL season with 30 goals and 33 assists for 63 points with 26 penalty minutes and a plus-21 rating in 64 games.

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He ranked fifth in the league in faceoff win percentage (57.3, min. 1,000 face-offs), 12th in face-offs won (784), third in even strength faceoff win percentage (58.0, min. 500 face-offs won) and first in shorthanded faceoff win percentage (58.3, min. 50 face-offs won). The 32-year-old forward also ranked second overall in the team puck possession metric SAT (shot attempts differential), with a 57.56%, which should make the fancy stat nerds very happy.

Some might argue there other more worthy candidates given that Bergeron missed 18 games due to injury this season, but he was also the center of a line that didn’t give up an even strength goal until January while putting up his customarily excellent stats. That being said, a guy like Aleksander Barkov also deserved plenty of consideration outside the top-3 finalists that all come in with equally strong chances of taking home the award.

Bergeron has won the Selke in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2017. If he wins the year's Selke Trophy, he will break the record held by four-time winner and Montreal Canadiens Hall of Famer Bob Gainey. The Selke Award is given annually to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association at the end of the regular season, and will be announced at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 20.

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