Nashville Predators

Haggerty: Bruins turn page after letting big chance slip away

Haggerty: Bruins turn page after letting big chance slip away

BRIGHTON, Mass. - It’s really too bad the Bruins couldn’t finish their two-game trip on a massive high note with a statement win over the Predators.

They would have been only the fourth team in 14 tries to get the better of the Predators on their home ice and would have effectively slowed down a red-hot reigning Western Conference champ that’s won 13 of 16. The Preds have been something close to unbeatable since getting Kyle Turris in the three-team deal at the beginning of November. The Bruins got an up-close examination why in their 5-3 loss at Bridgestone Arena on Monday night.

MORE BRUINS

In that way, it was a missed opportunity to take a massive step forward in the perceptions around the league on this season's Bruins and it was also a missed opportunity based on the self-inflicted wounds from mistakes made by Torey Krug, Anton Khudobin, Charlie McAvoy, Zdeno Chara and others.

That’s where the frustration comes in for a Bruins team that had won six of seven coming in and battled all the way back to make it a one-goal game in the third period before again shooting themselves in the foot with a Fillip Forsberg breakaway.

“We did a good job of pushing back and making it a game. We had some really good chances, but we’re at a point where we just need the results,” said Brad Marchand. “Regardless of the score, I thought we played better than they did. We just gave up a few chances that they capitalized on.”

Still, the Bruins deserve some credit for the way they’ve played against the big boys around the league this season. The Black and Gold memorably took down the Predators on opening night and ripped off a stretch to end November where they notched wins against the LA Kings, San Jose Sharks, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. All quality teams that are currently in a playoff position as the Bruins sit just outside the top-eight teams in the Eastern Conference with games in hand.

It’s a good reflection on the Bruins that they’re playing the NHL’s best teams so toughly this season, and even when they lose, they are serving notice that they aren’t going to be an easy out.

“It seems to scare us into playing the right way when we see the firepower and ability of the players we’re playing against, especially when [it’s a team] that went deep last year or is highly-touted at the moment,” said David Backes. “It causes us to value all of the puck possessions and not give away anything while making them earn it all. When we do that our goalies are seeing all the pucks and the chances against them are a little lower quality. It kind of clues everybody in and gives us the extra motivation to prove that we are a good team. We’re moving [healthy] bodies back in here it seems like every day, and things are going pretty well.”

All that being said the Bruins are at a point where it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if they’re beating the best teams in the league. They were a playoff team last season and the B’s are shaping up to again be a group that looks playoff-worthy again with key core members David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand again leading the way with dominant seasons.

They are as close to full health as they’ve been all season and now will be the time for the Black and Gold to start seizing opportunities like the one that slipped through their fingers in Music City.

It’s also about the Bruins beating the lesser teams with the same focus, effort and emotion that they’re bringing against the league’s best. The Bruins have also lost to some of the league’s worst teams: once each to the Oilers and Sabres and a couple of awful back-to-back losses to the Avs now back in their last place residence in the Central Division.   

“We’ve got Stanley Cup champions in there, so they do elevate their game [against big challenges],” said Bruce Cassidy. “That’s a good thing. But you don’t want to shrink down your game [if it’s an opponent] that you don’t have as much respect for. You’ve got to guard against that and play to your standard in every game.”

Guarding against playing down to their competition will be an immediate test with the Arizona Coyotes rolling into town on Thursday night with the second-fewest points (19) in the NHL. So, it’s time for the B’s to turn the page on the missed opportunities and focus on taking care of business against one of the very beatable weak sisters.  
 

Khudobin's hot hand ends with 'tough game' vs. Predators

bruins_anton_khudobin_120517.jpg

Khudobin's hot hand ends with 'tough game' vs. Predators

NASHVILLE -- The big question going into Monday night’s showdown in Nashville was whether or not Anton Khudobin would still be riding a hot hand after a 10-day layoff following his last start. It was back to normal for the B’s backup netminder in terms of workload, but it’s not often you see a goalie riding a four-game winning streak proceed to go a week-and-a-half between appearances.

We found out why on Monday evening as Khudobin gave up four goals before getting yanked in the second period of an eventual 5-3 loss to the Predators. The backup certainly didn’t get any favors from the defense in front of him with some pretty brutal breakdowns, but Khudobin also struggled mightily with his rebound control before getting pulled in favor of Tuukka Rask.

Perhaps there were some signs this kind of game was coming from Khudobin after he looked erratic with his rebounds in his last win vs. Pittsburgh right after Thanksgiving, but nobody could have guessed it would be this rough.

The first goal allowed was probably the biggest demerit on Khudobin’s ledger for the night with a juicy rebound of an Alexei Emelin shot that kicked right out to Craig Smith for the put-back score.

“Maybe in the middle of the first,” said Khudobin, when asked if he ever got settled into the game. “[It was a] tough bounce on that first goal. It hit on the wrong side of my pad, and it was a tough bounce.”

The final straw was watching Khudobin give up two goals on three shots in the second period with the Bruins then trailing by four goals. Afterward, Khudobin was properly exasperated, and at a loss for words after watching his goals against balloon to 2.52 and his save percentage drop to .922 after just one bad outing.   

“It was a tough game…tough game. With scoring chances against, they pretty much scored on everything that they had,” said Khudobin, who short-changed himself a good save on a Kyle Turris breakaway. “I don’t know what to say to be really honest. When the game’s not going your way, you have to change something to get the guys going.”

The good news about Monday night from a goaltending perspective was that Tuukka Rask stopped 10-of-11 shots, and was strong enough to allow the Bruins a furious comeback before the Fillip Forsberg breakaway ice things in the third period. Rask is heating up (a .937 save percentage over his last four games) as Khudobin is regressing back closer to his career numbers (a 2.47 goals against average and .917 save percentage), and the normal balance of things between the Bruins goaltending duo is returning to normal.

That’s bad news for a goalie in Khudobin that’s no longer red-hot after his worst start of the season, but it’s also pretty decent news for a Bruins team that survived Rask’s down period (thanks to Khudobin) and is now readying for the potential beginnings of a shutdown stretch from their established No. 1 guy. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Krug's tough start dooms Bruins in Nashville

Krug's tough start dooms Bruins in Nashville

NASHVILLE – There were mistakes early and mistakes late in the Bruins' frenetic 5-3 loss to the Nashville Predators on Monday night, but it was the early gaffes that spotted the Preds a four-goal lead that ultimately crushed the Black and Gold. 

MORE BRUINS:

Torey Krug has been better as of late after finishing November as a point-per-game player with an even plus/minus rating, but his first-period difficulties vs. Nashville were impossible to ignore.

Krug couldn’t do enough to neutralize Craig Smith crashing for a juicy Anton Khudobin rebound in the opening minutes. Krug then left his position to assist triple-teaming puck carrier Kevin Fiala before a wide-open Smith scored again for Nashville’s second score. It could have been even worse after a Krug turnover deep in the D-zone turned into a breakaway chance for Kyle Turris, but Khudobin was able to make the stop on that one in the first period.

Krug was a minus-2 after the opening period while alternating between trying to do too much or not enough in the D-zone and the Bruins were deep in a hole - a position that hasn’t portended good things for them this season.

“That’s what good teams do. [The Predators] capitalized on our mistakes. They made mistakes too, but we didn’t capitalize on enough of them,” said Krug, who is a team-worst minus-9 this season. That largely stems from the first month of the season while he played through a fractured jaw. “We take a lot of pride in battling back in situations like that. It’s about that and making sure that we have the starts that we usually, consistently have. We’d found a way to fix that part of our game, and maybe we need to go back and take a look at it before it slips away again.”

To his credit, Krug and the Bruins tightened things up and authored a furious third-period comeback before Boston’s top D-men pairing of Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy buckled for Fillip Forsberg's insurance goal. True to his nature, Krug kept fighting and finished the night as a minus-1 with seven shot attempts in 20:53 of ice time that didn’t read all that badly on the score sheet.

The bottom line, though, is that Nashville revealed some weaknesses to be exploited on Boston’s defense. That means Krug, McAvoy, Chara and the rest of the B’s back end needs to tighten things up before it becomes a trend. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE