Haggerty's Talking Points: Brad Marchand sparks Bruins in win over Leafs

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Haggerty's Talking Points: Brad Marchand sparks Bruins in win over Leafs

GOLD STAR: Brad Marchand finished with a Player of the Game trophy that he took a lap around the ice showing the Maple Leafs fans. It was a well-deserved honor from Lanny McDonald as part of the Hall of Fame game.

Marchand finished with a pair of goals in the third period to power the Bruins to victory and was dominant overall with seven shots on net and nine shot attempts in 18:18 of ice time. Both goals were good, strong and hard plays from Marchand where he fired an initial shot at the net and then followed his shot before popping the loose puck past Freddie Andersen. It continues a longstanding string of dominance for the Bruins' top line against the Maple Leafs, and that played out true to form again on Friday. It was also key to snapping Boston’s four-game losing streak.

BLACK EYE: Jason Spezza continues to struggle for the Maple Leafs. He missed an open net in the first period that could have pushed the Leafs out to an early lead. Instead, he missed wide and seconds later that turned into the first goal of the game for Charlie Coyle.

Spezza finished a minus-2 in 12:02 of ice time with a couple of shots on net, but doesn’t really bring much to the team if he can’t bury the offensive chances when they present themselves as they did early for the veteran. When you’re talking about a player that’s got one goal in 10 games and has been a minus player this season, that all spells trouble for him to continue garnering playing time for Toronto.

TURNING POINT: After a dreadful third period against Florida earlier this week, the Bruins turned it all around and had themselves a strong 20 minutes to close out Friday night after a “meh” second period.

The B’s outshot the Leafs 15-7 in that final period and Brad Marchand scored a pair of goals to push Boston ahead before Zdeno Chara cinched it in the final couple of minutes with an empty net goal. It was almost a 180 degree turn from the four goals that the B’s coughed up just a couple of days ago against the Panthers, and it perhaps showed that the Bruins are getting their mojo back after their game got out of focus for a couple of days.

HONORABLE MENTION: Zdeno Chara earned his empty net goal at the very end of the game with the way he defended throughout along with partner Charlie McAvoy. Chara finished with five blocked shots in a team-high 24:04 of ice time and did an excellent job of keeping things from getting too chaotic in the defensive zone while Toronto’s top line clearly had some pretty good jump.

Chara finished with three shot attempts, two hits and the five blocked shots and was one of Boston’s best players in a game where the B’s needed to get back to defensive basics. Chara and McAvoy blocked an amazing 12 combined shots in the victory, which shows just how hard Boston had to work for the two points.

BY THE NUMBERS: 12 – the number of combined blocked shots for Charlie McAvoy (seven) and Zdeno Chara (five) as the two top D-men certainly paid the physical price to help earn the win for the Black and Gold.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's a good win to come in here and beat that team. Definitely a good game for us." –Brad Marchand on snapping the four game losing streak with the 4-2 victory over the Maple Leafs.

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Bruins mired in losing streak: 'I don't think we've sucked'

Bruins mired in losing streak: 'I don't think we've sucked'

TAMPA BAY – The Bruins have dropped five games in a row for the first time this season, including four straight regulation losses, as their lead in the Atlantic Division has shrunk to single digits for the first time in weeks.

The latest setback was a 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Thursday night that gives them losses in three of the first four games on a road trip ending this weekend against the Florida Panthers. The Lightning scored a pair of power play goals and once again, it looked like the B’s just didn’t have enough to get over the hump in the third period after they’d come up just a little short against Washington the previous night.

The offense has slowed with just 20 goals over the last nine games since blowing up for eight scores at the Bell Centre, and the power play has been a shadow of its former self while injuries forced the Bruins to tinker with the personnel. The penalty kill was the problem against the Lightning with Tampa Bay scoring on two of their three power play opportunities. Meanwhile, the B’s are getting very little offense from anybody aside from their top line once again.

The Bruins have enough veterans that they aren’t going to hit the panic button particularly given where they are in the standings, but some results are becoming necessary soon before it spirals out of control.

“It sucks to lose. We hate to lose here. But we’ve played decent. You’re not going to win them all. Obviously, you’re not going to go 80-3 or whatever it was that [Brett] Ritchie said,” said Tuukka Rask, who allowed three goals on 31 shots in defeat. “You don’t want to lose too many games in a row and you’ve got to put a stop to it. It’s been a tough road trip, but we’ve got one more game left and hopefully we can finish it off on a high note.

“We have experience and we’ve been through a lot. We recognize when we suck and when we don’t. I don’t think we’ve sucked. It’s just a matter of getting a couple of bounces, getting a lead and then playing with it. For the most part it’s just playing the right way and then you lose some of these tight games.”

The good news is that the Bruins have played much better against better opponents in Washington and Tampa Bay over the last couple of games after playing down to competition like Ottawa and Chicago in the games prior to that. But the losses aren’t going to turn into wins until they execute with a little more precision in certain instances where penalties, special teams play and a lack of secondary offense hurt them in a big way.

“We gave up two goals tonight where we’d won neutral zone face-offs. Harmless kind of plays where the puck doesn’t get in, we turn it over and then we take penalties against a potent power play,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We didn’t help ourselves in those situations. These are instances where guys need to be better, make the right play and execute.

“Even late in the game we have a chance to tie it up on a backdoor pass and we don’t execute. The power play was disappointing. We don’t execute. Some of it is that we’re playing to what we’re capable of, or what we think we’re capable of.”

Given that Florida is one of the teams most closely chasing them in the division and their Atlantic lead has almost been halved over the course of this current road trip, one would expect the Bruins are going to dig deep for a winning effort against the Panthers on Saturday. If not, then this continues to become the worst losing streak the B’s have experienced in a couple of seasons where they’ve previously managed to steer clear of the extended losing stretches.

Tim Thomas tears up while discussing hockey related brain injuries >>>

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Penalty kill kills Bruins against the Lightning as B's drop fifth straight game

Penalty kill kills Bruins against the Lightning as B's drop fifth straight game

GOLD STAR: Steve Stamkos has really powered the Lightning this season and he was the No. 1 factor for them in their win over the Bruins. It was Stamkos who evened things up in the second period when he was left wide open in the slot area on the PP and wristed one under Tuukka Rask’s glove to get the Bolts on the board. Then he scored the game-winner in the third period after turnovers from John Moore and Patrice Bergeron in the defensive zone as he fired one from the high slot that Tuukka Rask managed to get a glancing piece of before it passed him.

Stamkos finished with two goals and a plus-1 rating in 17:07 of ice time to go along with six shot attempts and three hits for the Tampa captain.

BLACK EYE: The Bruins penalty kill was atrocious allowing Tampa two power play goals in three chances, and really not even being that competitive about it in the special teams battle. Stamkos got a wide open look all alone in the slot with time and space to snap a wrist shot past Tuukka Rask for the first power play goal and the Bruins PK was running around on the second Tampa power play possession before Nikita Kucherov fed Brayden Point in front for the goal through traffic.

Meanwhile, the Bruins went 0-for-3 on their own power play and once again lost the special teams battle after dominating that battleground earlier in the season.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins were in good shape for most of the game until more than midway through the third period when breakdowns in their own end doomed them. It was John Moore and Patrice Bergeron that lost battles and didn’t clear pucks before Steve Stamkos gathered it in and rifled home the game-winner from the high slot on a blast that Tuukka Rask couldn’t quite get a clean glove save on in the moment.

The Stamkos goal gave Tampa Bay a 3-1 lead in the third period that was cut into when Moore picked up a goal later on, but for the second night in a row, the B’s didn’t have quite enough to get over the hump against a quality opponent.

HONORABLE MENTION: Maybe he could have squeezed off a shot in the third period when he had a clear look at the net, but Charlie McAvoy was one of the few Bruins players generating offense with the game on the line in the final 20 minutes. He was taking pucks hard to the net, drawing penalties and making things happen when it appeared the legs were tiring for other members of the Black and Gold.

McAvoy finished with three shots on net, five hits while soaking up a team-high 27:41 of ice time for the Bruins. He picked up an assist on the Patrice Bergeron goal in the first period as well and had one of his better games for the B’s as of late. That’s a good sign that things are turning around for him after a slow start and a recent inconsistent stretch.

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 – the number of points lead in the Atlantic Division for the Bruins, the first time since Nov. 26 that it was in single digits after a Bruins loss and Sabres win on Thursday night.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We hate to lose, but we’re not going to go 80-3 or whatever it was that (Brett) Ritchie said.” –Tuukka Rask, talking about five losses in a row and poking fun at a Ritchie quote from Washington a few days ago where he killed some basic math. 

Tim Thomas tears up while discussing hockey related brain injuries >>>

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