Bruins

Some Bruins still trying to find their bearings

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Some Bruins still trying to find their bearings

BOSTON -- While theres plenty to like about Bostons 3-0-1 start in their first four games, it hasnt been highlight reel goals and on-ice celebrations for everybody.

The Bruins third line is off to the slowest start of any of Bostons forward groups, and registered only a single shot on net in an ineffective performance for the Bs in their 4-2 win over the Isles at TD Garden.

Chris Bourque, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly have combined for two points, no goals and a minus-8 rating in the first four games of the season, and have been bailed out by the strong starts of some of their teammates.

Its perhaps not surprising given that Bourque is the only new forward thats been added to an already established group of 11 forwards, and that means adjusting to a player with different strengths and weaknesses than Jordan Caron or Benoit Pouliot. It's also worth nothing that the third line is still minding their responsibility defensively, which is job No. 1 for the trio.

For a guy like Kelly remaining defensively vigilant is job No. 1 for their line, but the Isles did manage to score a goal while their line was on the ice Friday night. Johnny Boychuk was largely responsible after losing track of the man with the puck behind the net, but a minus-2 rating for the season doesn't lie for a guy in Kelly that was a plus-33 last season.

I think were still working on it, said Kelly. I think every line is still working on it. Just when you think youve got it all figured out then youre in trouble. When youre playing with new linemates you want to go out there and start producing immediately with instant chemistry.

Sometimes that doesnt happen. In fact most times that doesnt happen. But I think weve been solid in our end and there have been a few chances. The offense will come if we stick with the game plan. Were a defense first team.

While Claude Julien thought Friday night was Bourques best game in a Bruins uniform, there was a clear admission that the line as a whole isnt playing at quite the level where theyll end up.

Its hard to make assessments because were in the fourth game of the season. I watch some games on TV, and you know I could be a lot more disappointed in situations Ive seen from other teams around the league, said Julien. But were hanging in there. We know its just a matter of time for certain guys to turn it around.

I think weve got enough players here to score some goals that are going to make us a better team along the way. When you look at Tyler Seguin, whos got zero goals, we know hes going to start scoring a lot more. Horts Nathan Horton and Peverleythose guys, theyll get it going. Youve just got to maybe show a little patience as far as the finishing touch is concerned. But as long as they work hard and are progressing you keep pushing them in the right direction.

Peverley hit the left post in the third period and seemed to get better as the game went along. Bourque showed some good things while moving around with purpose and creativity on the second power play unit and erased some Isles chances -- one in particular on Keith Aucoin when he was about to pounce on a rebound in the slot -- with responsible back-checking.

But its little more than flashes at this point for a third line still looking to find their footing this season while the other three lines seem to have the ground running.

Morning Skate: No place for Gudas’ slash on Perreault

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Morning Skate: No place for Gudas’ slash on Perreault

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while enjoying the new Brown Sugar Cinnamon coffee flavor at Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s not Cookie Dough, but what is after all?

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) and PHT writer James O’Brien has the details on Radko Gudas getting ejected for an ugly, reckless and dangerous slash to Mathieu Perreault’s head last night. Gudas should be facing a long suspension for a play that has no place in the NHL. It’s time for Flyers fans to stop making excuses for a player who’s no better than a cheap-shot artist and hatchet man. He has to face the music for consistently trying to hurt his fellow players.  

*Frank Seravalli has some of the details for a historic GM meeting in Montreal where NHL hockey was born in the first place.

*You always need to link to a service dog being part of the pregame face-off ceremonies. That’s like a rule here at the morning skate?

*Cam Atkinson and the Columbus Blue Jackets have agreed to a seven-year contract extension, according to reports from the Athletic.

*It’s been quite an eventful year for Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet and some of it has been to the extreme both good and bad just a month into his first year as bench boss.

*For something completely different: Chris Mannix is all-in on the Celtics being the front-runners in the Eastern Conference after their big win over the Golden State Warriors.

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Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

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Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

These are desperate times for the Bruins even after pulling out a solid, blue-collar 2-1 win over a sputtering Los Angeles Kings team on Thursday night.

The victory ended a four-game losing streak and gave the Bruins just their second road win of the season in eight tries. It was also the fourth win of the season for backup netminder Anton Khudobin, who is a sterling 4-0-2 and has given them everything they could possibly hope for out of the backup spot. The Bruins have a grand total of 18 points on the season and Khudobin miraculously has more than half of those (10 to be exact).

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It’s clearly a far cry from last season for Khudobin, of course, when it took until February for the goalie’s season to get in gear.

But Thursday night’s 27-save effort from Khudobin was also a stunning contrast to what Tuukka Rask has been able to produce this season. Khudobin has a .928 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average. Rask has a dreadful .897 save percentage while giving them average play between the pipes at best.  

Khudobin is tied for seventh in the NHL with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky in save percentage and Rask is chilling in the NHL goalie statistical basement with retreads Steve Mason and James Reimer.

Quite simply, Khudobin has been way better than Rask and the Bruins have, for whatever reason, played better hockey in front of their backup goalie. Some of it might also be about Khudobin’s more adaptable game behind a Boston defense that can make things unpredictable for their goaltender, but Rask is being paid $7 million a season to be better and figure it out. It would be amazing if this trend continued for the entire season and it would certainly merit more examination from management as to why the rest of the Bruins and Rask can’t seem to combine for an effective, winning product on the ice.

For now, the Bruins need to simply win by whatever means necessary and that amounts to riding Khudobin’s hot streak for as long as it lasts. It should begin with the backup goalie getting a second consecutive start against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night and seeing where it goes from there. Perhaps the extra rest gets Rask additional time to get his game together, or serves as the kind of motivation to get the Finnish netminder into a mode where he can steal games for an undermanned, out-gunned team that needs that right now.

“We’re going to look at it,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked postgame by reporters in L.A. about his goalie for Saturday night. “He played very well against San Jose last time. They’re a heavy team. He seems to do well in these kinds of games with a lot of traffic around the net. But we’ll look at that decision [Friday].”

Khudobin has stopped 57 of 61 shots in his two games in November, so perhaps that level of hot goaltending could also allow the Bruins to survive a month that otherwise might absolutely bury their playoff hopes. Maybe Khudobin finally loses on Saturday night and the goaltending conversation, not controversy, ends as quickly as his point streak. For now, riding the hot goalie is the right call for a team that needs something good to hang onto.

The Bruins are in desperation mode until they get a number of their injured players back. There certainly might not be more of a desperate option than setting their beleaguered sights on a goalie they sent to the minors as recently as last season. But it’s a new season, Khudobin has been excellent and he’s earned a chance to carry this team for a little bit until they can get things back in order.

Calling Khudobin’s number is the right call right now for the Bruins and, quite frankly, shouldn’t be that difficult a choice given what we’ve seen so far this season. 

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