Morning Skate: Carey Price is back to being himself, giving Habs confidence


Morning Skate: Carey Price is back to being himself, giving Habs confidence

Nashville - Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading because the Patriots aren't on any TVs here in Nashville. Damn.

*You think you’ve had a tough day? At least you didn’t score on your own goal, then have Nazem Kadri laughing at you right to your face. Ouch, Kris Russell.

*Steve Simmons says that part of the trick in the NHL today is to find an “A” defenseman to build your team around, and that maybe Morgan Rielly is an A- defenseman that can be at the level of, say, a PK Subban. I’ve seen Rielly, and all due respect but he’s not that guy. I don’t think the Toronto Maple Leafs currently have that guy within their ranks, and that is part of the issue with an up-and-coming Maple Leafs club. Simmons also references the aging Zdeno Chara no longer being an “A” guy in Boston, but he isn’t going to need to be much longer with Charlie McAvoy continuing to look polished and poised beyond his years, and absolutely “A” defenseman material, as a rookie.

*Nathan MacKinnon has really turned it on with the Colorado Avalanche ever since the Matt Duchene trade, and continues to reclaim his game with that powerful skating stride.  

*Connor McDavid and Mike Smith are friends when they work out together in Toronto in the offseason, but they’re enemies during the War of Alberta.

*Interesting news from Pro Hockey Talk out of the KHL where Mike Keenan is out with the Kunlun Red Star as head coach/GM, and former Bruins player Bobby Carpenter has replaced him behind the bench on an interim basis.  

*Viktor Arvidsson delivering the engagement ring for a proposal right after a Nashville Predators game is unquestionably the video clip of the day

*Carey Price has played stellar hockey since coming back from his absence, and it’s allowing the Habs to play with confidence.

*For something completely different: Rolling Stone’s 50 best albums of 2017 just makes me feel really, really, really old.


Haggerty: Bruins showing they're still not 'Metro ready' in losses


Haggerty: Bruins showing they're still not 'Metro ready' in losses

BOSTON – Much may have changed with the Bruins since last year but some things have stayed the same, for instance the Metro Division is still a heck of a lot better than the Atlantic within the Eastern Conference power structure. The Bruins have dropped two in a row to traditional Metro Division power teams with losses to Washington and the 3-2 overtime defeat at the hands of the New York Rangers on Saturday night at TD Garden.

The Bruins are an average 4-3-2 against Metro Division teams this season, but they have yet to beat three of the divisions' best teams (Blue Jackets, Rangers and Capitals) with a 0-3-2 record against them. Bruins have a chance to improve this record on Monday against Columbus.

A win on Monday would be important, because the Bruins haven't looked "Metro ready" in any way, shape or form yet. 

It feels like Washington is just NHL kryptonite to the Bruins at this point, the struggles against the metal of the Metro Division this season shows Bruce Cassidy that his team still has a lot to iron out before being considered true contenders. In back-to-back games against Washington and New York, the Bruins were chasing for the entire duration of both contests despite getting more shots on net.

They are still too young in key areas, mistake-prone at key moments, and still getting pushed too much to be considered a threat to any of the Monsters of the Metro.

David Pastrnak wasn’t in much of a reflective mood when asked about it after the loss to the Rangers, but the mention of salvaging a point while coming back from two goals down was going to have to be good enough against the Blueshirts this time around.   

“I think it’s just that we are just people. I don’t know, you know, we just need to sit down a minute. We have a tough week ahead of us so we got a point, it’s better than nothing,” said Pastrnak. “The Rangers is a good team and always play good against us. It’s good that we came back and, you know, we got the point. Obviously we could have finished stronger, and it shows how it is. We are going to get better from our mistakes.”

The good news is that the Bruins have improved vastly and are playing like a team who could make the postseason.  They hold a pretty comfortable three point lead over the Habs for the Atlantic’s third spot with a whopping three games in hand. They can’t allow slippage in the standings given that it looks like a lock that five playoff teams proceed out of the Metro Division.

Much of this is idle talk, however, with the Bruins not even at the half-way point of the season. Clearly the team still has plenty of work still to be done after watching the power play embody a dumpster fire on Saturday night. There’s also the lingering doubt that despite their improvements, the B’s just aren’t yet strong enough to fight off teams with size and skill like you’d expect from a division that produced the last two Stanley Cup champs.  

“I think we’ve been pretty good [defensively]. It’s been mostly power play breakaways really, but I think we’ve been jumping and making plays when the defense has been jumping in the rush. I don’t think there has been too many turnovers off that,” said Tuukka Rask. “But I think when you play teams like Washington and the Rangers, they are pretty heavy and they battle in front of the net. So you’ve really got to get your nose dirty and battle in front of the net to get rewarded. That’s something that we need to pay attention to, I guess.”

The positive take away is that any losses to teams from the Metro will serve as another key chapter in the learning experience for the Bruins rookie group, and it also serves as a good gauge letting the Bruins know that they still have some serious improvement to come. They’ll get another immediate crack at one of their Metro Division big brothers when the Columbus Blue Jackets come to town on Monday.

The Bruins will get a chance to show that they've learned this past week after breaking down against the Capitals and Rangers, and perhaps buck the trend against a Blue Jackets team cut from the same mold. The B's believe they’re improving as the season wears on, but it’s time to prove it improvement in the all-important won-loss category against one of the Metro Division heavyweights.


Bruins, Marchand struggle mightily on power play in defeat


Bruins, Marchand struggle mightily on power play in defeat

BOSTON – The Bruins have to hope the ugly look for their power play units ends up being a temporary phase.

The Bruins managed to put together just six shots on net in seven power play chances during Saturday night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers, a situation that was just barely salvaged by a third-period power play goal. The score was a timely one on a connection from David Pastrnak to Brad Marchand that pushed things into overtime, but it did little to wipe out the monumental struggles earlier in the game.

The Bruins couldn’t cohesively get the puck in the offensive zone, and plenty of their team-high 22 giveaways in the game took place in the handful of instances they were rewarded with PP’s this season.

Couple that with the back-to-back shorthanded goals allowed in back-to-back games against Detroit and Washington, and there may be some issues to be straightened out on the man advantage.

“Early on, I thought the pressure in zone, we weren’t able to handle it. They were more aggressive on the kill than we were ready for, and we just did not handle it well,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We had a couple plays in mind we thought might work down low around the net. I think we forced the puck on those down by the goal line, so we spent a lot of time going back into our own end and breaking the puck out, which becomes frustrating.

“We tried to run a delayed play tonight; we were out of sync on it. So, there was problems getting into the zone and there were problems in the zone. There was problems, I mean, whoever watched the game clearly – I mean, we struggled on the power play. We’re not going to hide from that, but it got us a goal later, so we eventually kind of got it squared away but we certainly had opportunities early to take advantage and we didn’t.”

The overall performance during the month of December isn’t that bad for the Bruins, who are 6-for-26 (23 percent success rate) on the power play in the games played this month. They’ve been getting more production with better health, but they’re also playing a little too fast and loose with the puck management and decision-making on the ice.  

Brad Marchand admitted after Saturday night’s loss that it’s up to the Bruins players to start picking it up on special teams and make some better choices with the puck.

“It’s on us. We’re forcing plays when they’re not there. Maybe we need to realize we have an extra second, need to calm it down a bit. When we do that, we are at our best that’s kind of when things go well,” said Marchand. “When we take that extra second, we have good support and read off each other well. We aren’t doing any of that now, we are pressing a bit, but something we need to work on and get better at.”

Perhaps that Marchand goal can be the rallying point for the Bruins power play to move on and move out with all the proper personnel healthy and in place with Ryan Spooner, and just a good, old-fashioned confidence-booster acting as the only thing that can quickly lift the Black and Gold man advantage out of their current status in the dumps.