Bruins

Injuries, bad draft finally catching up to struggling Bruins

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Injuries, bad draft finally catching up to struggling Bruins

SUNRISE, Fla.  -- The Bruins gritted their teeth and valiantly went 4-1-2 in their first seven games after an already injury-plagued hockey team lost both Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron in successive games on the road.

But they’ve now lost two games in a row to the weak sisters of the Atlantic Division in Detroit and Florida, and had one of their worst losses of the season in Tuesday night’s 5-0 shutout loss to the Panthers at BB&T Center. Certainly even in their weakened state they are better than they showed in a careless game against Florida with some of their best players, Torey Krug and Jake DeBrusk among them, simply not playing well at all.

Aleksander Barkov, Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Huberdeau were all dominant forces and the Bruins simply didn’t have the defensive shutdown power to stop any of them while missing their two best defenders from the lineup. That effectively blew up Boston’s formula for winning games – tight defense, perfect goaltending and a dominant power play -- with a bare bones lineup and turned them into a hockey club that looked like they were missing their best players.  

It was a fact not lost on the Bruins after the listless defeat and the hard truth is there may be another one or two of these rock-bottom losses until No. 33 and No. 37 finally return to the lineup.

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“I think there are a lot of things to be learned here. I think a lot of habits are starting to catch up to us,” said Krug. “Our goalies having been doing a great job of keeping us in games. Even though on paper it looks like defensively we’re doing a good job, there are a lot of slow opportunities for the other teams and our goalies have stood up tall. Our power play is the only thing that’s scoring goals right now. We need to keep working, hopefully pop a few and get our confidence back. 

“But we’re so reliant on our power play that it’s got to be good in order for us to win games, and tonight it was not. It’s up to the skill players and a lot of leaders in the room to be better. We’ve got to fix that.”

Some of Tuesday night’s issues will be addressed in practice, and there’s little doubt that Bruce Cassidy and the B’s coaching staff will be able to tweak the power play to get it operating again at a higher level.

“I know there’s a lot of pride and character in the room. Some of it is sitting home in Boston unfortunately,” said Cassidy. “But the guys that are in here have to realize that if our best players aren’t our best players, especially now, then we’re going to have a tough time.”

There is also perhaps a deeper organizational issue at work as injuries rip a chunk out of the Black and Gold.

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AHL call-ups like Colby Cave, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Connor Clifton and Jeremy Lauzon have done the best that they can, but there’s a limit to how good they can be while forced into regular NHL duty for the first time in their careers. None of them were first-round picks and only JFK is really looked at as any kind of dynamic offensive prospect while operating more as a smooth, smart two-way player than an offensive performer.

With the Bruins scrapping for 5-on-5 goals and clearly without firepower to come back when it became a three-goal lead for the Panthers, it’s beginning to become apparent that the B’s 2015 NHL Draft is really starting to hurt them. With three-plus years of development, this should have been the time when 13th overall pick Jakub Zboril and 15th overall pick Zach Senyshyn stepped up and injected some talent and explosiveness to a lineup that’s bereft of both right now.

The man taken in between both of them, Jake DeBrusk at 14th overall, is second on the Bruins with 10 goals this season and has turned into a top-6 winger and one of the best forwards on the roster. He has proven to be a good pick by the Bruins and will probably be in Black and Gold for the next decade given his skills and his mature off-the-ice approach.

But Zboril has managed just a couple of NHL games when the B’s were really desperate for help last month, and was never entrusted with more than 11 minutes of ice time. Senyshyn has never come close to cracking the NHL roster despite the clear need for a goal-scoring winger. This season the 21-year-old has five goals in 22 games for the P-Bruins with a minus-9 rating, and really doesn’t look all that much better than a “meh” AHL rookies season where he totaled 12 goals and 26 points in 66 games.

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Both Zboril and Senyshyn are still young, but it says a lot about what the Bruins think of them that they’re not up in the NHL right now with an injury-ravaged roster.

With so many other players from that 2015 first round taken after them already contributing highly at the NHL– Brock Boeser, Thomas Chabot, Mat Barzal, Travis Konecny and Sebastian Aho to name a few – it’s fair to wonder how much better Boston’s situation would be if they’d done even a little better at executing that first round of the draft.  

It’s beyond fair to ask how much better off the Bruins would be offensively if the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Senyshyn was actually the Chris Kreider-type they projected him to be when they selected him. Instead he’s one of only two first round picks from that 2015 NHL draft that has yet to even suit up at the NHL level, and it doesn’t look like he’s close right now.

The same goes for Zboril given that he was sandwiched in between D-men selections of Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov, Zach Werenski and Chabot, and would be a huge benefit to the B’s if he were as good as any of them.

The reality is it’s only a two-game losing streak and the B’s have every excuse to lose a few games given the substantial players they’re missing from the lineup. They’ll also bounce back because they’re talented, well-coached and before too long guys like Chara and Bergeron will be back and ready to play.

But it’s borderline painful to think how much better off the Bruins would be if things had gone a little differently for them three-plus years ago during the draft at the very-same BB&T Center arena where they got their clocks cleaned on Tuesday night.  

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Brad Marchand, Joe Haggerty engage in fun Twitter beef

Brad Marchand, Joe Haggerty engage in fun Twitter beef

The popcorn-eating masses on Twitter got their latest look into what goes on inside the Bruins dressing room between longtime Bruins reporters and agitator/chirper/bon vivant Brad Marchand when he took to Twitter on Thursday to “roast” yours truly.

Truth be told, it’s always been a good-natured joking/trash-talking kind of relationship between me and Marchand over his eight years with the Black and Gold, and the winky face emojis between us kind of prove it. That nuance, however, is completely lost on the car crash-hungry Twitter masses thirsting for the latest tweet beef between anybody on social media these days.

Just as it clearly was misunderstood by most of Bruins Twitter on Thursday looking to find the worst in a back-and-forth that was actually pretty funny between two dudes with a good sense of humor that have a longtime working relationship.  

But I digress.

Anyway, this humble hockey writer penned a normal “What We Learned” post from Tuesday night’s win over the New York Islanders, and I started it all by asking an uncomfortable, tough question. The kind of question that gets those waving Black and Gold pom poms all worked up.

Are the Bruins better off without Torey Krug in the lineup based on how much stronger they are defensively, and how important that is during postseason hockey? There were a couple of pieces of compelling evidence in the last two wins over a couple of playoff-caliber teams in the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Islanders.

But it certainly was far from demanding that the offensively gifted Krug be taken out of the lineup, and was instead simply asking the question.

So Marchand took to Twitter on Thursday morning to rightly defend his diminutive teammate, and also take a swipe at my fondness for the ninth-floor dessert cart in the TD Garden press box.

Naturally that elicited a response from this humble hockey writer that stated my case, was very complimentary toward No. 63 and then also managed to invoke the Christmas classic “Elf” by addressing Marchand as my “Angry Little Elf friend” at the end of it. And Marchand came back with the perfect response.

As is often the case, yours truly had to get in the last word on Twitter by bringing it all back home to Marchand’s original tweet. Hey, at the end of the day who doesn’t like snacks?

How will this all end between Marchand and myself? Well, the good thing is that it never has to because we’re both on Twitter to stay, though the chirping may take a hiatus in the playoffs when No. 63 is probably going to have to put away the social media accounts to focus on the Bruins' task at hand with the Stanley Cup Playoffs. So get out of the popcorn and enjoy the good-natured tweet beef while it lasts during the final weeks of the regular season.   

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Joe Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Joe Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings

Almost three weeks remain in the regular season, and the battle for the President's Trophy is already over, with the Lightning (116 points and counting) already wrapping up home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But even though the top spot has already been clinched, the homestretch of the season features a ton of interesting battles for playoff positioning.

Although they're in the same division as Tampa, the Bruins have a chance to finish with the second-best record in hockey and square off against the Maple Leafs in the first round for a second consecutive season.

The Flames and Sharks have both clinched playoff spots already, with Calgary holding a slim three-point lead for the top seed in the Western Conference.

While those teams will look to make noise in the playoffs, many teams are fighting and clawing just to get in, with Columbus leading Montreal by one point for the eighth spot in the East, and Arizona trying to hold off Minnesota and Colorado for the eighth spot in the West.

How do all 31 teams stack up in Joe Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings? Click here to find out.

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