Haggerty: 'Waiting around' on road isn't working for Bruins


Haggerty: 'Waiting around' on road isn't working for Bruins

NEW YORK – After a month of the hockey season, positive and negative patterns begin to emerge for NHL teams.

The Bruins have certainly shown an ability to scratch and claw their way back into games and a willingness to keep working even when things aren’t initially going their way. But the other side of that hockey coin is that the Bruins have also shown a self-destructive penchant for sluggish starts. That has been particularly noticeable on the road this season.


It was there again Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden as the Bruins allowed three goals in the first period and were outshot 16-7 by the Rangers en route to a 4-2 loss to the Blueshirts. Essentially, the first few shifts of the game were perfectly fine for the Black and Gold, but one bad shift for the Tim Schaller/Sean Kuraly/Danton Heinen line led to the Rangers scoring three goals in less than a six-minute span.

“We’re well aware that [starts on the road] is hurting us right now. It would be a lot easier on ourselves if we start at the drop of the puck and establish what we're doing for the last 40 minutes of games,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We need to be better and everybody knows that. We’re all professionals and we know it’s not good enough to play for 40 minutes.”

The first goal came on a shift where the five Bruins flubbed a number of chances to clear the puck out of the D-zone before Pavel Buchnevich sped past Zdeno Chara en route to the goal. Then the Bruins simply collapsed in front of their own net and Jimmy Vesey scored a pair of second-effort goals in and around the net as both defenders and Tuukka Rask looked a little frazzled.

The Bruins eventually regained their footing and pushed it to a one-goal game in the third, but again they couldn’t fully climb out of a hole they’d made for themselves.

“The most frustrating thing is the start again. We put ourselves in a bad spot,” said Bruce Cassidy. “In this league, it’s tough to come back. We’ve had a couple of moral victories or whatever you want to call them to show that we have some character, and we’re in the fight to the last whistle. But we’ve got to learn quickly here not to keep putting ourselves behind the 8-ball because teams are too good.”

The Bruins have now been outscored 7-3 in the first period of road games this season. They dropped to 1-3-1 on the road while showing their youthfulness in being reactive rather than proactive away from home.

“I think because we’ve got an inexperienced group that does kind of wait around to see what’s going to [happen]. They’re not used to being initiators at the NHL level. They might be at the American League or wherever they previously played, so they wait around a little bit,” said Cassidy. “Now all of a sudden [when we’re losing] there’s a little more desperation, and that’s great.

“We want to see that urgency level, but we want to see that at 7 p.m., or 8 p.m., or whenever the puck drops. Not when we’re behind by a couple. That’s the message we’re trying to get through, trust me, and hopefully, it sinks in on Friday because we’ve got another tough one.”

One thing the Bruins can do - as they start to get healthy - is mix in a few more players who might be able to help get the team focused earlier in road games. The energy and heavy hitting of a guy like Noel Acciari could help in waking up the team from their first-period doldrums. He looks like he’ll be an option for the Bruins as soon as this weekend in the home-and-home against the Maple Leafs.

Some of it also simply about the B’s missing so many of their key players to injuries and not having the offensive wherewithal to score early rather than falling behind as they’ve consistently done away from home this season. Nobody is going to blindly accept that as an excuse when the undermanned Bruins can still play good hockey for 40 minutes and bad hockey for the other 20 minutes, as they did on Wednesday night against the Rangers.

At this point on the road, Cassidy and Co. will probably settle for a good, strong 20 minutes right out of the starting gate in Toronto and then see where that takes them for the rest of the night. The opposite clearly isn’t working for the Black and Gold right now. 


Bruins put finishing touches on reeling Canadiens


Bruins put finishing touches on reeling Canadiens

MONTREAL -- The Boston Bruins weren’t about to dance on any Montreal Canadiens’ graves after it was over and done with, but they effectively closed the door on any flickering playoff hopes for the Habs this week. It all ended with Saturday night’s 4-1 win over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre that finished off the sweep of all three meetings between the two arch-rivals over an eight day span, and with the reeling Montreal a stunning 13 points out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.

It was a close game nearly all the way through in Montreal until David Pastrnak and Riley Nash scored in the final few minutes of the third period, but the Bruins outscored the Habs by an 11-5 margin while clearly establishing they were the better team in all three contests. It all makes sense given the opposite directions that the two hockey clubs are headed at this point in the season, and because of that the Bruins were playing it pretty cool after burying the Habs.

“It was kind of a crazy week because we were playing them three times, so we obviously wanted to play good hockey,” said Tuukka Rask, who won all three games vs. the Habs while improving his lifetime record vs. the Habs to 10-15-3 in the process. “[We wanted to] get as many points as possible, and won all of those games along with the one on Long Island. So it was a great week for us.”

Certainly it seemed like there was more genuine emotion from the Bruins in Claude Julien’s return to Boston midweek, and perhaps a little more adrenaline in last weekend’s first game at the Bell Centre where rookies like Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy and Danton Heinen were dipping their toes into the storied rivalry for the first time.

But on this Saturday night it was more about a complete dismantling of the Bleu, Blanc and Rouge even as the Bruins initially fell down by a goal after a bad McAvoy turnover. Instead it was Boston’s Perfection Line that went to work with an efficient, dominant performance as David Pastrnak scored the game’s first goal and insurance third goal in the third period. They also accounted for the game-winner when Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak hemmed Montreal’s fourth line in the defensive zone, and Torey Krug eventually stepped up and rifled one short side on Carey Price.

Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak combined for two goals, six assists and a plus-8 in the resounding victory over the Habs, and had a dominant 12 of Boston’s 31 shots on net when the final horn had sounded. They simply overwhelmed Montreal with their depth, the high end quality of their lineup and the fact that Boston was rested while the Habs had to play in Washington DC on Friday night in a three games in four days stretch.

All of that allowed the Bruins to drive the final nail into Montreal’s coffin when the game was over, and it furthermore allowed Boston to keep worrying about the teams they’re trying to catch (ahem . . . Tampa Bay Lightning) rather than Eastern Conference bottom-feeders like the Canadiens.

“We talked about doing the job against them and finding a ways to push teams down while gaining ground on the teams above us,” said Patrice Bergeron. “I thought it was a great effort again. We knew that they would be ready for us, but we also knew that they had played last night. So maybe if we had a good start we could jump on them. I thought we had a good game.”

Clearly there have been ebbs and flows to the Bruins/Habs rivalry over their long history together, and both Boston and Montreal have been in the catbird seat at different times even in the recent editions of their history. But right now Boston is beating the Canadiens badly at their own skill and speed game and dominating thing with pure hockey rather than bullying, and that’s got to sting for a Habs group that simply couldn’t compete with the Bruins in three different chances to do so this week. 


David Pastrnak dominates third straight win against Canadiens


David Pastrnak dominates third straight win against Canadiens

GOLD STAR: David Pastrnak had been a little quiet offensively, but that all changed on Saturday night against Montreal. It was the 21-year-old that answered with a bad angle goal in the second period after Montreal had taken the first lead in the game, and it was Pastrnak again in the third period crashing the net and scoring his second goal to finally give Boston the breathing room that they needed. Pastrnak thoroughly dominated the game, scored two goals and three points along with a plus-3 rating, and led all players with a game-high eight shots on net while playing with energy and intensity in all three zones. It is nights like Saturday night in Montreal when you see just how good Pastrnak could still be a few years down the road.

BLACK EYE: Carey Price wasn’t terrible in the game, but he gave up the wrong goal at the wrong time to the Bruins in the second period. David Pastrnak surprised him with a bad angle shot by the goal line aimed at his skates, and Price couldn’t recover quickly enough to keep the puck from squirting into the net for the game-tying goal. Given how much better the Bruins are than the Canadiens this season, Price was going to be have to letter-perfect in order to beat the Black and Gold. Instead he gave up a bad goal just minutes after Montreal had finally scored, and completely sucked all of the momentum out of the Habs. A few minutes later Torey Krug beat Carey Price with a sniped shot for the go-ahead goal and that was it for the night. In all Price allowed three goals on 30 shots and had one of his weaker games against the Bruins in recent memory.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins appeared to score the insurance goal in the third period when Patrice Bergeron jumped on the rebound of a shot attempt where David Pastrnak’s stick had shattered on the initial shot. But a coach’s challenge ruled that the play was off-sides and the goal was overturned leaving it at a one-goal game in the third period. Montreal was given second life to scratch for one goal to at least push things in overtime, but instead that line was at it again and Pastrnak scored on a rebound in front directly from a Torey Krug point shot. That was the goal that officially broke Montreal’s spirit and allowed the Bruins to sweep all three games over the Habs in an eight day span.

HONORABLE MENTION: Torey Krug hasn’t exactly been a scoring machine lately, but he stepped up and had one of his best games against Montreal on Saturday. It was Krug that ended up with the game-winning goal on a sniper shot over Price’s shoulder in the second period when he jumped into the play with the Perfection Line dominating, and it was Krug that finished with a goal, three points and a plus-three rating in 17:24 of ice time. He finished with five shot attempts, a hit and a blocked shot as well, and was truly making things happen offensively as he did with a point shot in the third period that turned into a Pastrnak rebound goal for the insurance marker.

BY THE NUMBERS: 25 – the number of goals for the Perfection Line (Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak) over the 16-game point streak that the Bruins have been riding on for over a month.

QUOTE TO NOTE:  “I think at the end of the day if I knew that I would have to face them now, I probably would’ve kept them separate for all those years.” –A joking Claude Julien when asked postgame what it feels like to have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand doing so much damage against his new team during the three games played in eight days.