Bruins

Haggerty: Bruins show they have plenty of work to do

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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.  

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Bruins wary of negatively impacting "very good chemistry" at trade deadline

Bruins wary of negatively impacting "very good chemistry" at trade deadline

TORONTO – It doesn’t take much searching on the Google machine to uncover noteworthy accomplishments from the Bruins this season. 

The Bruins are top-five in the NHL in offense, defense and penalty kill, and they have gone an amazing 31-6-4 since the middle of November while storming to the very top of the NHL standings. Along the way they’ve overcome injuries, tough losses bad starts, one lengthy Brad Marchand suspension and a fan base that was only half paying attention until the season ended anticlimactically for the New England Patriots a couple of weeks ago. 

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They also did all of this while introducing a lineup with five or six rookies in it every single night, and playing for a head coach in Bruce Cassidy in his first full year running the NHL team after 13 years between NHL gigs. They’ve been resilient and filled with fighting character all along, and they’ve overwhelmed opponents with their depth and quality of players on the vast majority of nights. 

They’re an entertaining and fun hockey club to watch, to be sure, and they are a group that sticks up for each other and genuinely likes one another while also sitting mere points behind the top dog Tampa Bay Lightning. That was all evident when the entire team enjoyed a night out together in Toronto on Wednesday, and wound up using the team-wide get-together as quality content for their Instagram accounts. 

Long story short, the Bruins have been extremely good this season on a consistent basis and look primed for an intriguing run into the postseason as the NHL trade deadline beckons. 

With all that in mind, it’s a delicate balance for Bruins management between making necessary roster improvements and not upsetting a tangle team chemistry that’s been notably special this season. The always candid Cassidy admitted as much when asked that question while meeting with reporters at the Bruins team hotel on Thursday morning. 

“I think it’s been factored into conversations between me and Donny [Sweeney] that we have a group with some real togetherness there this season,” said Cassidy. “At the end of the day if you can add and make your team better then you always have to look at it, and Donny is looking at that right now. 

“Adding [Nick] Holden I think he’s done that and we’ve added some more depth. But after that I do worry about if we subtract somebody from the room. If you’re adding and you’re not subtracting, i.e. future assets, then as a coach you always prefer to go that way. But Donnie will do what’s best and as a coaching staff we’ll take it from there so to speak. But there is a good chemistry with that group…a very good chemistry in that locker room.”

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Translation: There's a real concern that trading away a young NHL roster player like Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen or Brandon Carlo could be altering the team's DNA a little too boldly. 

This is the factor to keep in mind chasing after rental wingers like Michael Grabner, Thomas Vanek and Patrick Maroon that are unlikely to cost more than a “B” prospect or reasonable draft pick in exchange for them. It’s expected that the Bruins would need to give up at least one young NHL asset, possibly two in a true blockbuster for a player with term, if they chased after bigger ticket targets like Rick Nash or Ryan McDonagh with the Rangers.

Certainly there might be some level of impatience that the Bruins should go for broke at the deadline based on the promise this group has shown this season. Perhaps some are worried the window is starting to close for some of their veteran core players, but the numbers say otherwise with players like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand all enjoying vintage seasons. This isn’t a 2011 “Go for the Cup” type situation this season with the Bruins where they were primed and ready for a lengthy playoff run, and deals for Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly and Tomas Kaberle helped put them over the top. 

This year’s group is much more reminiscent of the 2008-09 Bruins that blew away expectations with a strong regular season, and enjoyed breakout performances from a number of younger players that saw them soar high above expectations. The youth and inexperience caught up to the Bruins that season when they were eliminated in the second round during a rugged seven game series with the Carolina Hurricanes, but the experience helped grow them into a contender on a steady trajectory over the next three seasons. 

That’s where the Bruins are this season. 

They’re a pleasant surprise team with a group of talented youngsters helping to push them to a higher level, and they’re due for a learning experience down the stretch and into the postseason. That isn’t likely to develop into an extended two-month Cup run unless a lot goes tremendously right for the Black and Gold, but the experience will pay dividends for next season and beyond. 

It might be that there’s just one more player for the Bruins to add ahead of Monday’s deadline, and that it will be more “sensible roster addition” than “take-your-breath-away blockbuster.” But that’s really okay when it comes to the Black and Gold.

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It’s okay because it means Don Sweeney hasn’t attempted pulling the roster apart at any of the seams, and will instead roll with his chemistry-filled Bruins regular season juggernaut to see exactly how good they stack up to be in the postseason. They’ve certainly earned that right after kicking the tar out of the rest of the NHL for the last three plus months, and it’s starting to feel like they’re going to get it.

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Bruins' Bjork out for season after undergoing shoulder surgery

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Bruins' Bjork out for season after undergoing shoulder surgery

TORONTO -- Anders Bjork's up-and-down rookie season has come to an end, as the Bruins' left wing underwent left shoulder surgery this week that’s expected to keep him sidelined for the next six months. 

Bjork was knocked out of a Jan. 30 loss to the Anaheim Ducks when Francois Beauchemin caught him with a cross-check to the left arm, but it’s unclear whether he was already playing through some level of shoulder injury prior to that collision. According to the B’s release, the 21-year-old winger “underwent successful left shoulder arthroscopy and labral repair on Tuesday” at Mass General Hospital. Bjork had been spotted around the Garden in recent weeks wearing his left arm in a sling, but it was difficult to guess the severity of the injury based on what looked like a fairly run-of-the-mill hit from Beauchemin. 

The injury and season-ending surgery ends a bit of a lost year for Bjork, who cracked the Opening Night roster and finished with 4r goals and 12 points in 30 games.

He showed the speed and skill required to be a top-6 forward at the NHL level, but also appeared to need more development time when it comes to battle level and adjusting to the physicality level in the pro game. The former Notre Dame star never seemed to fully bounce back from getting steamrolled in the neutral zone by Matt Martin in the middle of November, and ended up spending time in Providence as well prior to his season-ending injury. 

Bjork’s injury certainly doesn’t rule him out completely as a trade asset ahead of Monday afternoon’s trade deadline, but it probably makes him less attractive to NHL teams looking for young, NHL-ready talent that can step into their lineups right now. With Bjork headed for the long-term injured list and Frank Vatrano traded to the Florida Panthers for a third-round pick, that certainly opens the door for both a) a deal to bring on a veteran rental winger ahead of the trade deadline and B) a spot to be opened up in the Bruins organization for Ryan Donato when the Harvard University star, currently at the Olympics, is ready to sign.

Those are both very good things despite the downer news about Bjork, who watched fellow rookies Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen live up to the expectations many had for him.

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