Bruins

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

new-york-rangers-jimmy-vesey-haggs-column-110917.jpg

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.

MORE BRUINS:

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. 

[video:stanzacal}

Talking Points: DeBrusk provides energy in win

bruins_jake_debrusk_111817.jpg

Talking Points: DeBrusk provides energy in win

GOLD STAR: Jake DeBrusk gave the Bruins all kinds of energy out of the starting gate, and made a couple of plays that allowed his team to hold a lead despite getting outplayed in the opening 20 minutes. DeBrusk went hard to the net splitting a couple of San Jose defenders on the first goal, and fired a shot on net that created a rebound for Peter Cehlarik to cash in on. Then DeBrusk scored a little bit later on a rush where he beat Brent Burns in a foot race to a loose puck, then whistled a wrist shot past Aaron Dell for his fourth goal of the season. DeBrusk finished with a goal and two points along with a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net while falling just short of 16 minutes of ice time in the victory. It was a strong effort from DeBrusk shortly after being a healthy scratch, and showed what he’s capable of when he gets his skating legs going.

BLACK EYE: Brent Burns was a complete mess for the Sharks. He was burnt by Jake DeBrusk in each of the first two Bruins goals in the first period with the B’s rookie going right at him with the attack. He also didn’t make it to the net with 12 of the 16 shots that he attempted and Burns finished with seven giveaways as well. It’s been a rough follow-up season for Burns after last year’s Norris Trophy season where he’s tried to do too much for the Sharks, and his game has suffered as a result. That seemed to be the case for Burns against the Bruins as well where his mistakes played a big role in the Sharks dropping the game.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins won the game when they managed to survive an opening 20 minutes where they were outshot 17-5, and even better they had a 2-1 lead based on some offensive fireworks from Jake DeBrusk. They were also aided by a couple of video reviews where the Bruins took a San Jose goal off the board when it was ruled that a crashing Joonas Donskoi punched a puck into the net with his glove. The Peter Cehlarik goal was also upheld at the other end after a challenge from the San Jose bench. It looked like DeBrusk was tripped before he partially crashed into Aaron Dell that set up the Cehlarik goal, and that’s clearly how the referees saw it after reviewing the play.

HONORABLE MENTION: It’s got to be Anton Khudobin, who stopped 36-of-37 shots and improved to 5-0-2 on the season with another strong win aided by a stalwart defensive effort in front of him. Khudobin now has 12 of the 20 points that the Bruins have amassed on the season, and he absolutely rewarded the B’s for opting to go with the Bruins backup for a second game in a row as they ride the hot goaltender. Khudobin was helped by a number of Bruins blocked shots in the third period when the game was still very tight, but it was also about Khudobin coming up with 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were getting outplayed by the Sharks.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 – the number of Bruins rookies that have scored their first NHL goals this season, including Peter Cehlarik finally getting his first NHL score Saturday night in his 14th career game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We need them. They’re in the lineup and they’re playing significant minutes. We need them to produce for us. Tonight we needed some offense early, and they provided it for us.” – Bruce Cassidy, on the role of the rookies in the win where it was all first-year players Peter Cehlarik, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen doing the scoring vs. San Jose. 

Khudobin stops 36 shots to help Bruins beat Sharks, 3-1

bruins_sharks_anton_khudobin_111817.jpg

Khudobin stops 36 shots to help Bruins beat Sharks, 3-1

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Anton Khudobin enjoyed getting pestered with shots early. He didn't have time to let his mind wander.

Khudobin stopped 36 shots to lead the Boston Bruins to a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

"I like it busy," Khudobin said. "I don't have to think about anything else. The third-period start was unbelievable . . . I don't think I faced a shot until halfway through the period."

Peter CehlarikJake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen scored to help the Bruins get their second straight win after a four-game skid (0-3-1). Boston had totaled nine goals in its previous five games, scoring more than two for just the second time in nine November games.

"It went our way," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "They were clearly better than us but we come out 2-1 (in the three games on West Coast). If you stick with it, good things happen."

Khudobin remained unbeaten in regulation (5-0-2) and improved to 4-1 with a 0.99 goals-against average in five games against the Sharks.

Timo Meier scored and Aaron Dell finished with 18 saves for the Sharks, one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. San Jose has been held to two of fewer goals in five of their seven games this month.

"Guys in this room can score; we just have to do it," Sharks Logan Couture said. "I thought we had good chances and a lot of them at the end. We've got to create offense. If you don't score goals, you're not going to win."

Meier gave the Sharks, losers of two straight following wins in six of seven, a short-lived 1-0 lead after tapping in a rebound 4:50 into the game. Daniel O'Regan, making his season debut, won the puck behind the net and skated around to take the shot that bounced to Meier. It was O'Regan's first career assist and second career point.

"I just kind of fished it out and wanted to bring it to the net," O'Regan said. "Timo made a nice finish."

Cehlarik, in his 14th game, scored his first career goal about 1 1/2 minutes later to tie it for the Bruins.

Boston took the lead on DeBrusk's goal with 9:14 left in the first. Charlie McAvoy cleared a puck in his zone that DeBrusk, one of three rookies who scored, chased down and easily beat Dell 1-on-1.

"It's massive," DeBrusk said. "We all want it so bad and we all work so hard. These are big games for us."

Heinen made it 3-1 with 5:51 left in the third. Kevan Miller skated down the ice, drawing all the attention on the right side. He passed across the crease, from where Heinen tapped it in.

"He made a heck of a play," Heinen said. "I just put my stick on the ice."

The Sharks had a goal negated for the second straight game, this one two minutes in.

"We got enough looks tonight to score," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "We're doing more good than bad we're just not being rewarded."

NOTES: O'Regan was recalled before the game. He's the leading scorer for the Barracuda of the AHL. ... The Sharks have had three consecutive goals reversed after challenges dating to Thursday's game against the Florida Panthers. ... Sharks F Joel Ward has recorded points in six of his last eight games. ... DeBrusk, who assisted on Cehlarik's goal, recorded his first multi-point game since Oct. 14, a span of 14 games.

UP NEXT

Bruins: At the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.

Sharks: Host the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE