Haggerty: Bruins show they have plenty of work to do


Haggerty: Bruins show they have plenty of work to do

BOSTON – That sound you heard on Monday afternoon was the Good Ship Bruins crashing back down to Earth.

After an opening night where everything went swimmingly and the Bruins rookies all looked like difference-makers, the B’s barely showed up and looked completely disengaged in a 4-0 shutout loss to the lowly Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden. The rookies made some commonplace mistakes in the defensive zone while not kicking in any offense, and the core group of Bruins appeared for the first time like they were missing a couple of high-impact players in Patrice Bergeron and David Backes.

Worst of all, Tuukka Rask allowed goals on two of the first five shots he faced and really never gave the Bruins a fighting chance at two points.

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said he saw the warning signs in the practices over the weekend after getting three off days following their big win, and it sure sounds like the B’s players thought they were going to waltz to a win over the Avs.

“I’ll be honest. I didn’t like our couple of practices this [past] weekend. I thought our execution was off, and we were a little. . . but it’s early and you’re kind of giving them the benefit of the doubt. So that goes to preparation. We weren’t as crisp as we needed to be, and it showed tonight in the start. They were just better than us,” said Cassidy. “We didn’t play the game we needed to play. We looked like we were going to get it, then we’d mismanage pucks, and I thought that was the problem.

“We didn’t take advantage of a team that could have some issues breaking pucks out if you [use a] heavy fore-check, like we did to Nashville with a very good defense. We just didn’t play the same game. That was everybody. Getting back to the first year guys, I think they are good bounce-back guys. They are high character, and they’ll keep coming. But tonight it just didn’t work out.”

Perhaps just as disappointing as the game’s start was the unwillingness for the Bruins to fight and scrap their way back into the contest. Sure Sean Kuraly had a couple of chances at the doorstep that Semyon Varlamov was able to smother in the first period, and the Avs goalie made his best save of the game in the second when he shut down a David Pastrnak speed drive to the net.

But that was pretty much it from the Bruins, who got poor games from Brad Marchand (one shot on net and three giveaways along with a stick fired like a javelin down the runway behind the B’s bench during a fit of pique in the second period) and David Krejci (a minus-2 and one shot on net in 18:24), who have to better when the Bruins are plagued with the injury bug. Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork both finished with minus-3 performances, and at times DeBrusk was dropped to the fourth line as Cassidy played mad tinkerer with the forward combos.

Add all of it up and this game was the ultimate B’s crap sandwich served up to a team that should have been an easy victim. The Bruins showed that there will be some learning curve moments early with the young lineup, and that they still can’t afford to ease up or take an easygoing approach to any of the games on their schedule.

“We needed that one [goal] and we never got it, and it was one of those games we never really had the drive to make a push. Then obviously it was two-nothing in the third and then I made a mistake to make it three-nothing. That kind of deflated us even more. But, you know, one of those games we never got anything going,” said Tuukka Rask, who finished with three goals allowed on 22 shots in a performance that was probably even worse than the numbers would indicate.

“I don’t think we necessarily played as good as we did in the first game. It’s something that it’s a process. We have to go out as a team as we move along here and we just have to develop the certain style of hockey that we want to play. I think the first game was more of an example of what we want to look like out there than today. Obviously, it’s early in the season and still trying to put the pieces together.”

Rask is absolutely correct that it’s early with just a couple of games played into the regular season, and there will be some pronounced peaks and valleys with a number of young players in the nightly Bruins lineup. But lax preparation and an unfocused approach to any one of the 82 games during the regular season is a poor habit to begin adopting early into the season. That’s something the Bruins need to address ASAP with a three-game trip out West staring them in the face.  


Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins


Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – While it’s still early in the careers of all the young Bruins rookies making their way this season, it sure looks like 22-year-old Danton Heinen is among the B’s youngsters that are here to stay. The former University of Denver standout didn’t make the cut at the end of training camp this season and he failed early last year when it was clear he wasn’t ready during an eight-game audition with the big club.

But Heinen continued to look ready while scoring a pair of goals and three points in the three games on a pivotal road trip through California last week, and is now tied for fifth on the Bruins in points despite missing four games in the AHL. In all, Heinen has four goals and 10 points along with a plus-4 rating in 15 games this season, and is on pace for a really strong 21 goals and 52 points in his first full year.

This has been a really nice step forward for Heinen after being a point-per-game player for Providence during their playoff run last spring.


“Last year’s playoff did a lot for him. When I saw him playing there, he was a different player than when he’d left [Boston],” said Bruce Cassidy. “There was a willingness to stay in the battle and his growth when it comes to winning pucks…you’ve seen it here. A lot of the things he’s down well are his second and third efforts on the puck where last year I thought he was pushed off the puck pretty easily [at the NHL level].”

There could be a period when his offense slows down or some other part of his game drags his minutes down, but right now he looks like he’s well on his way to establishing himself in a key role with the Black and Gold. The difference has been Heinen increasing his speed and also adding a little more tenacity to the skill and offense package that he was always bringing to the table.  

“I don’t want to say that because when we get our guys healthy then we’ll see where we’re at,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if Heinen was a keeper at the NHL level at this point. “But I think he’s certainly shown he’s a much more consistent player than he was last year. He’s probably a bit ahead of the other younger guys because he has gone through a bit of it [at the pro level]. The fact that he’s been able to play in a lot of different situations, play left or right wing, and moved up in the lineup while being very effective with [Sean] Kuraly and [Tim] Schaller down in the lineup, as a coach it’s to have a guy like that who can move around and fit in a lot of different places.

“So he’s certainly helped himself [to stay in the NHL]. I think it’s too early to say if he’s here for good, but I don’t envision him leaving [Boston] anytime soon with the way that he’s played.”

Only time and consistently good play will allow the playmaking Heinen to truly lock up his spot on the NHL roster, but it’s increasingly difficult to envision any scenario where the fifth-round pick isn’t playing an increasingly important role for the Bruins. 


Bruins' Backes returns to ice after surgery for diverticulitis


Bruins' Backes returns to ice after surgery for diverticulitis

BRIGHTON -- In a development that was certainly much sooner than originally anticipated, David Backes has returned to the ice just a matter of weeks after having 10 inches of colon removed during surgery for diverticulitis. It remains to be seen how gradual a process it will be for the 33-year-old to actually return to game action given his original timetable for recovery was eight weeks following the early November procedure, but it seems like it might end up being ahead of the two months Backes was initially expected to be sidelined. 

For his part, Backes was happy to be back skating with his teammates and pushing his recovering body after feeling pretty sluggish for the first few days following surgery. He confirmed he’d been skating for a couple of days while the team was on the West Coast, but Monday was his first team doing anything post-surgery with the rest of the team. 

“It’s good to be back with the guys and to be around the room, and to have seen the kind of resiliency that these guys showed on the road trip. The back half of the road trip was impressive,” said Backes, who has an assist in five games with the Bruins before succumbing to the surgery. “To be on the ice and moving around after sitting around doing nothing for too long where you don’t think you’re going to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it feels good. 

“The doc’s advice is that if it doesn’t hurt then I can keep moving forward and add more of a workload on, so that’s the update for today. It’s still non-contact, but we’ll keep moving along and hopefully I’ll be back doing what I love to do on a regular basis. I haven’t been notified that the timeline has changed at all, so I’m just going to keep putting in the work. The more I seem to do the work the better it is, and I seem to be able to do a little more each day. So those are all positive signs.”

For the Bruins it’s clearly a morale booster to see the big power forward back doing regular hockey activities, and serving notice that he’ll be bringing his size, strength, leadership and physicality back to a B’s team that definitely needs him. Clearly the return of another high-end forward would also immensely help a Bruins team that’s still very undermanned up front, but it would appear there will be some other B’s forwards getting back prior to Backes. 

Brad Marchand and Ryan Spooner appear poised to return to full practice on Tuesday with a possible return to the lineup not too far beyond that after all three injured forwards took part in Monday’s optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena.