Bruins

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

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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.

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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. 

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Report: NHL asked that Marchand stop the licking

Report: NHL asked that Marchand stop the licking

The Bruins got a phone call from the NHL in which the league requested the team tell Brad Marchand to stop licking people after his Game 1 antics in the Toronto series, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

The item was No. 22 in Friedman's regular "31 Thoughts" column:

After Game 1 of the Toronto/Boston series, the Bruins got a, “We’d prefer if you could tell Brad Marchand to stop licking people” phone call from the NHL.

Marchand, the noted B's agitator, gave the Maple Leafs' Leo Komarov a lick on the face (he kissed him on the cheek earlier this season) after they tussled in the playoff opener. He explained that he thought Komarov "wanted to cuddle."

The Bruins open their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday after taking out the Leafs in seven games. We'll see if Marchand keeps his tongue to himself. 

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Bruins are ready for a 'formidable' foe in the second round vs Tampa Bay Lightning

Bruins are ready for a 'formidable' foe in the second round vs Tampa Bay Lightning

BOSTON – The Bruins have barely come down from the high of winning Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and they’ve already got to set their sights on an even bigger challenge waiting this weekend in Tampa Bay.

The Bruins will next face the Eastern Conference regular-season champion Tampa Bay Lightning, who just edged out the Black and Gold for the top spot in the East at the end of the regular season when Boston dropped their regular season finale against the Florida Panthers. 

“Well, they won the Eastern Conference. I think it’s equally a formidable if not even more so task [than the Maple Leafs]. Not a lot of holes in their lineup. We had some success in the regular season against them,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney. “We’re going to have to find a way to replicate that and probably be even better. We had pockets of our game in this past series that we know we need to improve upon, and it’s going to take our best effort from start to finish to play against Tampa. We’re a confident group to go in. We deserve to be here. We’re moving on and I’m sure they feel the same way.”

The good news is that the Bruins took three out of four games from the Lightning this season, and have fared very well against the Bolts over the last couple of seasons. Tuukka Rask, in particular, has been very strong against Tampa and finished with a .926 save percentage along with the three victories against them this season. 

The bad news for the Bruins is that they’re a much better team than the Toronto Maple Leafs with a better defense, a better goaltender and a more explosive array of experienced forwards including Steve Stamkos, Hart Trophy favorite Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson among others. Certainly, they’re going to need better than the .899 save percentage that Rask posted in the seven games series against the Maple Leafs, and they’re going to need more support scoring beyond a Bruins top line that will have their hands full against Victor Hedman the Tampa defense.  

“It’s going to be a battle. They were a top team all year. They compete very hard, have a ton of skill, and they have a lot of depth,” said Brad Marchand, who finished second among the Bruins with five points in the four games vs. Tampa this season behind only the six points from Torey Krug. “We’ll look at them a little bit more in the next few days, but we’re going to enjoy this one tonight.”

One area where the Bruins are going to be able to do some damage? The Tampa Bay penalty kill was 27th in the league this season, and they’ll be going up against a Bruins power play that scored on 31.8 percent (7-for-22) of their PP chances in the first round against a better Toronto penalty kill. That will be one area where the Black and Gold can do a lot of damage, but they clearly go into the second round series as the prohibitive underdogs. 

In all truthfulness, however, the Bruins are playing with house money right now. They took that next step by going from a return to the playoffs last season to winning a round and advancing deeper into the postseason with the second round date vs. the Bolts. Sure, they have Cup aspirations and the B’s will push as deeply as they can on their postseason run, but there will be little pressure on the Black and Gold at this point to win a best-of-seven series that they’re not expected to win against the favored Lightning. 

That’s not a bad spot to be in for the young, gritty and battle-hardened Black and Gold.

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