Joe Haggerty's Talking Points from the Bruins' 2-0 win over the Hurricanes

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Joe Haggerty's Talking Points from the Bruins' 2-0 win over the Hurricanes

GOLD STAR: Charlie Coyle was the best player on the ice for the Bruins on Tuesday night, so it was fitting that the big center ended up with the winning goal in the third period. Coyle had most of the rest of the scoring chances for the Black and Gold as well, including a rebound chance in the first period off a Matt Grzelcyk point shot. But it was the third-period play where Coyle went to the net and redirected a Brad Marchand pass that got the Bruins on the board with 4:05 left and injected some life into the team. Coyle finished with six shots on net, two hits, two blocked shots and a takeaway in 17:14 of ice time and played the kind of big boy game that the Bruins could use more of from one of their biggest forwards.

BLACK EYE: Sebastian Aho is usually a Bruins killer of the highest magnitude, but he was invisible on Tuesday night in a game where most of Carolina’s big guns were neutralized. Aho finished with a shot on net, two shot attempts and not much in the way of noticeable chances in 20:24 of ice time. Actually, Carolina scoring threats Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen were also kept from making many plays or creating too many chances. Obviously, that’s what led to the shutout for Jaroslav Halak, but it was less about the goaltending and more about the strong, hard-checking defense being played all over the ice.

TURNING POINT: The third period is the Bruins' turning point this season. That's where they've outscored opponents 39-20 this season. It’s the period where they enjoy the biggest goal differential with a plus-19 and it’s by far the period where they have scored the most goals (39) this season while routinely pulling away from opponents as they've done over their most recent homestand. On Tuesday night, it was the final five minutes where the Hurricanes finally cracked and Coyle was able to turn a good hustle play and a wild pass off the boards into a strong scoring play going to the net. Then the Bruins followed with another goal from David Krejci 68 seconds later to put away the 2-0 win - their eighth victory in a row.

HONORABLE MENTION: Brandon Carlo has played very well this season and that continued in a defensive grudge match against the Hurricanes. Carlo was immense in the defensive zone and did all of the little things while finishing with four shots on net, five hits and three blocked shots in 22:11 of ice time. He also finished with a plus-1 rating, but it’s his play as a defensive warrior that stands out. The biggest reason Carolina’s big forwards were shut down against the Bruins is that Carlo and Zdeno Chara decided they were going to do some shutting down, along with Charlie McAvoy, too. Carlo has flown under the radar because he’s not a big points guy, but he’s been sneaky excellent this season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 500 – number of career games for Jaroslav Halak, who recorded a 24-save shutout, the 49th of his career, in the milestone effort against the Hurricanes.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It shows that we’re conditioned, and we have will, both. We know how to play when the game is on the line.” –Bruce Cassidy on the B’s tendency to pull away from opponents in the third period.

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Haggerty: These blown leads are becoming a plague for the Bruins

Haggerty: These blown leads are becoming a plague for the Bruins

PITTSBURGH — If it happened once or twice, it could be shrugged off as a coincidence.

But the Bruins have blown three-goal leads three times this season, including two in the last week alone. That gives them one of the NHL's worst records when leading after two periods, with seven losses already this season.

To put Sunday's 4-3 loss at Pittsburgh in perspective, the Bruins went into the contest 200-1-6 since 2010-11 in games where they’d held a three-goal lead. 

It came down to a couple different things on Sunday, but you can start with their sloppy second period. They basically did nothing for the first 10 minutes coming out of the first intermission. That opened the door for everything that followed.

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First, Sidney Crosby made a couple of All-World plays to set up goals and get the Penguins back in the game. Then, it came down to the Bruins dooming themselves with mistakes, allowing two more goals without any offensive response. 

On the third goal, their top power-play unit stayed out on the ice far too long, and a gassed Brad Marchand couldn’t catch Jack Johnson as the trailer unloaded a shorthanded bomb. Then in the third, Evgeni Malkin stripped Charlie McAvoy behind the Boston net and set up Bryan Rust for the Penguins' game-winner.

To a man, the Bruins said it wasn’t about taking the foot off the gas pedal. Instead, they pointed to mistakes made while crediting Pittsburgh for pushing back.

“It’s typically how does it happen? We saw some poor defending and some poor goaltending in Philly, and tonight it was more of the same to be honest with you,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “Not so much on the goalie. They were good goals. But we get beat off the wall and the last one I can’t tell you what happened to be honest with you.

“I saw them bump their urgency up. The goals we are giving up against a good team…what is it a lack of focus? Do we lose our urgency? Because they are gifts a little bit. You can get outplayed by good teams, and you will in stretches. But these were gifts today.”

But it sure feels like the mind-numbing results fly in the face of their denials. Instead, something feels inherently wrong with a team that consistently plays down to the worst teams in the league, and seems to ease up once they build a comfortable lead. Those are the kinds of team traits that don’t go away as things get more challenging, and will certainly crop up when things are heightened. It’s also a shocking development for a Bruins team that’s been very good at closing out other teams over the years.

“We just need to bear down and you can’t just have a good effort and be satisfied with that, and then come back in the next game and just play for half of a game or whatever that was,” said Patrice Bergeron, who scored his 21st goal of the season and won 20-of-25 face-offs. “We need to take it upon ourselves. We all need to take responsibility and be accountable for how we’re able to play in this locker room.

“It’s one of those games where we’re playing a good team and they’re going to give you a push, but you can’t let that go by. It’s a 3-0 and you know there’s a lot of game left, so you need to play the right way and keep pushing in order to increase that lead.”

The good news for the Bruins is that they still have a half-season to figure things out. But it also makes one wonder if something has to change from the outside to improve things for a Bruins team that's almost the same as last season’s Stanley Cup finalist.

It remains to be seen what’s going to right the ship, or if it will ever get righted at all. But the list of problems is growing for a Bruins team that can’t live off its early-season success for much longer.

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Bruins don't expect David Backes to retire after demotion to AHL

Bruins don't expect David Backes to retire after demotion to AHL

David Backes was waived by the Boston Bruins late last week. The statement move to demote the veteran Bruin was part of two critical changes that the B's made to their team. The other was waiving fellow enforcer and physical forward Brett Ritchie.

After Backes' demotion, there was some speculation that the 14-year veteran may opt to retire instead of playing in the AHL for the Providence Bruins. But according to Bruins president Cam Neely, Backes hasn't indicated that he will do that.

"I don’t think he has a mindset of retirement," said Neely per Kevin Paul Dupont of The Boston Globe. "He’s a very proud man, and a professional. I still have the feeling he thinks he can help, so we’ll see where it goes from here."

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This isn't altogether surprising. Backes may be holding out hope that he'll get another chance to play moving forward if he can prove himself in the AHL. 

Backes turns 36 in May, but hockey players often have long careers. So, it's possible that Backes could find a role as a veteran depth piece for another team. It'll just be on a deal much cheaper than the five-year, $30 million deal he signed with the Bruins back in the 2016 offseason.

That said, it's worth noting that Backes has had concussion issues in recent seasons. So that could impact his decision-making moving forward.

In 16 games this season, Backes had just one goal and two assists for the Bruins. He'll take some time off before joining the Providence Bruins later this month.