Bourque feels like he belongs in NHL despite struggles

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Bourque feels like he belongs in NHL despite struggles

Theres no denying it when Chris Bourque says hes worked his balls off each of the 96 shifts hes skated with the Bruins this season.

The 26-year-old left wing is scoreless in his first six games in a Bruins uniform and has only scrapped together three shots on net while averaging close to 12 minutes per game including regular power play shifts. Bourque has skated with competent offensive linemates in Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley even if Kelly has struggled a bit out of the starting gate this season.

The oldest son of Ray Bourque is keenly aware he hasnt produced offensively and its compounded by struggling with his confidence in the Boston area where he grew up and developed as a hockey player. The career AHL player is also on this third NHL organization after failing to break through in past stints with the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, so theres a healthy amount of pressure on a stint with the Black and Gold that might be his last, best chance to secure an NHL gig.

I normally put a lot of pressure on myself, and when I dont the pressure mounts even more for me. I just need to go out there and not think about that stuff. I just need to go out there and play my game, said Bourque. Its not that Im not comfortable here, but its just a learning process getting used to his surroundings.

Now Bourque is getting scratched for Thursday nights tilt against the Buffalo Sabres in favor of the bigger, tougher Lane MacDermid in anticipation of a gritty battle with their division rivals.

I had a good talk with Chris this morning. I think hes putting a lot of pressure on himself right now and hes certainly not the Chris that we know, said Claude Julien. Ive seen him enough to know that hes a really good skater, hes a really good playmaker, but I think right now hes putting way too much pressure on himself.

Hopefully we can help him through that and once he takes the extra weight off his shoulders youre going to see a player that can certainly be a much more efficient player than hes shown so far.

Is there a part of Bourques game that he feels like he isnt showing with the Bruins?

Yeahscoring, said Bourque, who led the AHL with 93 points scored last season and obviously hasnt lost his sense of humor amid the struggles. I dont know if its the pressure or that I just want it to happen so bad, but sometimes when you want it so bad you always forget about what youre supposed to be doing out there.

I dont think Im playing badly. Im just not playing my type of hockey. Im always going to bust my balls every shift, finish my checks, back-check and all that kind of stuff. Thats the easy part. I feel like I belong in this league and I think I can produce in this league. I just havent gone out and shown it yet.

The clock is certainly ticking for Bourque, and hes smart enough to know it. Jordan Caron is playing in the AHL for Providence and represents a bigger, stronger option if its decided the third line needs more of a net-front presence in its combination. Jay Pandolfo continues to skate with the Bruins and could be a solution as a third line left wing capable of killing penalties and filling a checking line role to the T.

But Bourque also deserves a chance to take a breath, get his bearings and get at least one more extended shot with the Black and Gold because a big upside is there if he can find the same NHL comfort zone that's allowed him to kill at the AHL level.

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

BOSTON – The all-important results continue to elude the Bruins at the time when they need them most.

The Black and Gold lost their third game in a row, 1-0, to the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden Friday night when they allowed the game-winning goal with less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation. It was a simple defensive breakdown and some great tic-tac-toe passing with Marian Hossa finishing things off, but it also felt like a game where the Blackhawks coasted against a wounded Bruins team for 58 minutes before turning it on when it was winning time.

The winning goal was a cross-ice pass from Tanner Kero to Hossa, with the puck sliding right between the legs of Adam McQuaid in the slot, and Hossa picking a corner while giving Tuukka Rask zero time to react side to side.

“We had a game plan in place and our guys executed well, they were ready to play,” said Claude Julien. “One little mistake and it’s in our net, and you lose yourself a pretty important hockey game.”

So, now the Bruins have taken only one point in their past three games, have dropped behind the Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic Division standings and continue to skate around like they’re wearing the weight of the entire organization on their shoulders.

“At the end of the night it is another loss and that’s the biggest thing. Did your team play fairly well? I think so. I think we competed hard, but then again you’re dealing with some growing pains. We had an icing late in the game so that’s not necessary, but the winning goal that goes through three of our guys and in our net with a minute-and- a-half left,” said Julien. “We have to stand there again, and take the responsibility for our own actions. It’s unfortunate because that minute-and-a-half that was left in the game kind of tarnished everything we had done for the first 58 minutes.

“I thought we played pretty well against a good team. We had contained the guys that we needed to contain. We didn’t score any goals – I don’t think we did a good enough job there - we had some chances but again you got to find ways to score goals. That’s where we are at.”

Clearly, the Bruins didn’t give up a ton defensively and Rask had been solid for the first two-plus periods, but there was also a sense Chicago didn’t bring its best game either when Boston outshot the Blackhawks 17-6 in the opening period. It was also clear that, aside from a couple of good, early chances from Tim Schaller and Brad Marchand, along with a Joe Morrow breakaway chance, the Bruins offense wasn’t doing enough work to get closer to the Chicago net for any sustained pressure.

So, instead of a solid result with dark clouds swirling over Causeway Street that a big change is needed to jolt a stagnant team, the Bruins hang up another loss where they outshot their opponent and end up with nothing to show for it.

These are the kinds of losses that test morale and togetherness and could either be taken as a sign of things tightening up for the Bruins or of things continuing to spiral away from a team that just needs wins at this point.

“I’m sure everybody’s feeling down right now because we lost, but you can’t start pouting too much. You’ve got to move on,” said Rask, who allowed one goal on 22 shots in the loss. “[There’s a] big game coming up Sunday, and next week, so it’s a loss and we have to move on. [We have to] get ready for the next one. I’m sure guys are pissed today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Tomorrow is a new day for everybody on the Black and Gold including Julien, who is scheduled to still run practice on Saturday as the B’s bench boss before speaking to the media prior to the team leaving for Pittsburgh. So, it’s business as usual after another loss on Friday night in a classic Original Six matchup that’s clearly most of the luster from where it was at four years ago, but one can only sit and wonder how much longer business as usual cuts it for a hockey club that continues to flounder. 
 

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

BOSTON -- With three crushing losses in a row at a time when results are really all that matters, the Boston Bruins are reeling at the wrong time during the regular season. The B’s tried their best to win a game 0-0 with strong defense against a sleepy Chicago Blackhawks bunch on Friday night, but ultimately coughed up a Marian Hossa goal in the final minutes for a 1-0 regulation loss at TD Garden.

The defeat continued a swirl downward for the Black and Gold over the last week, and was a second straight shutout loss on home ice for the first time in almost 15 years. The losing stretch has also kicked up the chatter that Claude Julien is in trouble as head coach of the Bruins, and the hockey club’s underperformance up and down the lineup is ultimately going to cost the NHL’s longest tenured bench boss his job.

The Ottawa Senators have passed the Bruins in the Atlantic Division, and it’s only a matter of time before the Toronto Maple Leafs move by them as well with both Toronto and Ottawa holding six games in hand on Boston. Combine all of this with the B’s having missed the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons leading into this one, and it shouldn’t be at all surprising that Julien is squarely on the coaching hot seat.

The B’s bench boss was asked about his job security after the Chicago loss, and clearly didn’t appreciate the tough, but appropriate question.

“Well, I’m not into shock-journalism,” said Julien in a prideful tone. “So I’ll stay away from that question if you don’t mind.”

The Bruins posted their Saturday schedule shortly after Julien and the B’s players had addressed the media following the loss, and sure enough the embattled coach is scheduled to address the media post-practice as part of the regular practice day routine. So it doesn’t seem that a move with Julien is imminent this weekend despite another loss, but both the coach and the players know something is going to happen to shake things up with this team if they continue to struggle.

“Right now it’s a results based situation, so if you’re going to keep losing games then probably something’s going to happen,” said Torey Krug. “But right now we’re just pretty down emotionally after this game, so I don’t want to look at the big picture. I just [want to] focus on what’s going on in this room, and hopefully we can come back with a good effort the next game.”

A good effort might help Julien’s standing with the Bruins in the short term, but it’s impossible to imagine the B’s bench boss making it through the rest of the Bruins regular season given all of things working against him right now.