'Brain-dead' defense sinks Bruins in loss


'Brain-dead' defense sinks Bruins in loss

BOSTON -- Its not every day that Claude Julien thinks his hockey club played "brain-dead" defense.
But thats exactly what the Bruins coach said about a hockey club that had gone into Thursday night ranked fourth in the NHL while allowing a paltry two goals per game, but they were scorched for seven goals in a 7-4 loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden.

It was the most goals surrendered by a Julien-coached team since they lost an 8-2 decision to the Maple Leafs way back on March 6, 2008 when Phil Kessel was still wearing Black and Gold.

Some of the defensive breakdown is certainly attributable to a red-hot Thomas Vanek, who finished with a hat trick and five points that were instrumental in dismantling the Bs defense. Its no coincidence that Vanek has 28 career goals and 54 points in 46 games against Boston, and hes formed a dynamite combination with Jason Pominville while becoming the NHL's leading scorer.
But, yes, the Bruins were also an abominable mess defensively.
Zdeno Chara was on the ice for three of the goals scored by the Sabres, and finished with a minus-3 to go along with zero registered hits and three giveaways in a listless, invisible performance.
It was the first time Chara was a minus-3 since a March 11 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins last season when Evgeni Malkin and Co. toyed with the Bruins.
More than once the 6-foot-9 defenseman was caught up ice or away from the net and Vanek had the puck with ample time and space to make plays, and thats a recipe for Bs disaster.
Chara is the tone-setter for the rest of the Bruins in the defensive end, so its doesnt portend good things for the Black and Gold when teams are getting breakaways and unmolested shots at the net while No. 33 is out on the ice.
It started with the big defenseman getting pick-pocketed by Jason Pominville in the neutral zone that turned into a 2-on-1 for Vaneks first score less than three minutes into the second period.
The miscues happened far too often in Bostons first Northeast Division game of the season with 38 percent of their compressed regular schedule including divisional games.
Defensively I dont think I remember the last time we were this bad. The breakdowns and mistakes we made and the opportunities when you give Thomas Vanek those kinds of opportunities, hes going to make the most of it. I dont think we were extremely good on defense and thats what cost us the game.
I didnt expect this because it wasnt our type of game. When you look at the way we played -- the sloppiness of guys left by themselves around our net, the puck watching all over the place -- it was really disappointing; our guys defensively were just totally, totally out of it. We were told before the game to have our head on a swivel and that they really activate a lot in the offensive zone. Defensively, I guess you would say our guys were brain dead.
Julien singled out the goal scored by Tyler Ennis in the second period as the one that truly bugged him, and that was on the Bruins' captain along with Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand. Andrew Ference was draped all over Vanek in front of the net trying to strip the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder of the puck, but somehow Vanek managed to find a wide open Ennis at the right post as he was tumbling to the ice.

Chara was out of position after chasing Marcus Foligno far away from the front of the net, and didn't have enough time to recover on the bang-bang play. The tiny Buffalo forward had the teams third goal of the night, and Julien went apoplectic at the sight of a wide open Sabres forward attacking the net.

Chara similarly miscalculated on the go-ahead goal for Cody Hodgson and the Sabres in the third period when he was caught in-between on a 2-on-1 rather than cutting off the pass that eventually set up Hodgson's one-timer. Though Tuukka Rask was charged with six goals allowed in defeat, there were at least four Sabres strikes that the B's goaltender legitimately never had a chance to stop due to shoddy defense in front of him.

I almost broke my neck there, I think, with that lamp lighting up, said a wickedly sarcastic and embattled Rask after watching the defensive horror show in front of him. It was just a great defensive battle out there.
We gave up a lot of odd-man rushes, and then those two-on-ones, just a quick pass to the backdoor and one-timers in. Obviously, we have to get better on that. Too many times I think we just let those guys stand in front of the net by themselves. The puck watchingits not like us. We just got to fix that.
Chara wasnt the only defender that had a rough night, however.
Dougie Hamilton was shut out of the score sheet while being saddled with a minus-2, and absorbed a Drew Stafford elbow to the chops for his troubles that went uncalled as a penalty. Gregory Campbell and Lucic both finished a minus-2 as well as Julien attempted to mix-and-match forward lines after losing Shawn Thorntons services just a few minutes into the game.
But neither of those players is considered the best defensive player of their generation as Chara is commonly labeled in most NHL circles. So it was an eye-opening lack of defensive smarts from Chara that trickled down to the rest of the Bruins, and cant be repeated for a hockey club that relies on the bedrock of good fundamental defense and punishing competitiveness.

Still looking for first point, Heinen stays patient


Still looking for first point, Heinen stays patient

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It may be strictly due to injuries or because Ryan Spooner is being moved back to third line center full-time, but Danton Heinen is going to get another top-six look on the wing. The 21-year-old Bruins prospect will be skating on the left wing with David Krejci and Matt Beleskey in Tuesday night’s game against the Minnesota Wild after serving as a healthy scratch last weekend against the Montreal Canadiens.

Heinen has only two shots on goal in the four games leading up to the scratch, and has been quiet offensively after leading the Bruins in goal-scoring during the preseason. Clearly there’s an adjustment to be made there, and it looked like the playmaking rookie winger was starting to develop a little more confidence trying to make plays while skating with Krejci and David Backes in last week’s win over the New Jersey Devils.

Heinen actually looked reminiscent of Krejci on a couple of plays, pulling back the puck after entering the zone and catching a trailing B’s teammate with a perfectly executed lead pass on the offensive rush. That effort plus a trip to the ninth floor press box last weekend seemed to reinforce just how much time he has to make plays, and that should be a benefit for both Heinen and his linemates.

Sometimes getting that first NHL point is the hardest part when a player breaks into the league, and it’s been that way for the young winger through his first four games.

“[Krejci] is such a good player, and I just try to complement him any way I can,” said Heinen. “You never want to be up in the press box, but it gives you a different perspective on the game. It’s a different angle. From up there it looks like you’ve got way more time. I definitely think I can be more patient with the puck, and make some smarter plays.”

Heinen started to do that in his best NHL game to date prior to being scratched against New Jersey, and it resulted in greater offensive possession and a couple of potential scoring plays getting created for the B’s second line. Unfortunately it didn’t lead to actual goals, and Heinen knows that’s what needs to happen through him if a player like him, with an offense-minded reputation from his University of Denver days, is going to stick top-6 in Boston.

“You can’t rely on the [top] guys every night,” said Heinen, who watched the Habs beat the Bruins on Saturday night while essentially shutting down Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. “When we’ve been out there we’ve kind of been getting some chances, but we’ve got to bear down.

“[Krejci] likes to play with the puck a lot, so you just get him the puck, go in hard on the forecheck and try to get open because he’s a good distributor.”

It sounds like a simple plan that might be a very good thing for young Heinen, who needs to start breaking through offensively if he wants to stick around in Boston for the long haul. 

Khudobin out three weeks as Bruins turn to Malcolm Subban


Khudobin out three weeks as Bruins turn to Malcolm Subban

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It could get a little dicey for the Bruins over the next couple of days.

Both Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin were missing from Tuesday’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena, and instead rookie Malcolm Subban will get the start for the Black and Gold against the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden.

Rask hasn’t been on the ice since last Thursday’s win over the New Jersey Devils when he re-aggravated a lower body injury and Khudobin will be out three weeks with an upper-body injury suffered at Monday’s practice. It appeared the B’s backup suffered a right hand/wrist injury in the early moments of the practice, and Subban was left as the lone goaltender until Boston brought up Zane McIntyre on emergency recall Tuesday morning.

Julien said the Bruins have confidence in Subban’s ability to play a great game for them, but he’s struggled so far in Providence while getting yanked from two of his four AHL starts this season.

“I just want [Subban] to go in tonight and play a really solid game because we know that he can. He’s a good goaltender, so just because he had a bit of a rough outing [in the AHL] doesn’t mean he has to have one tonight. This is an opportunity for him to play well, and to demonstrate that he’s ready to play in the NHL,” said Julien. “We have bad games and we tell our players ‘Let’s not live in the past, let’s think about what we have to do to rectify it and play better in the next game.’ So I think our goaltender is in the same situation.

“Our game plan is about playing good defense with Tuukka or without Tuukka. That doesn’t change. We understand that some of the teams that we’ve played lately (Montreal and New Jersey) are very stingy, so we have to give up the least amount of goals we can because we’re not going to score a ton against those teams. When you put a system together you believe in it, and you go out and play your game. You don’t adjust your game for other teams, and adjusting for injuries isn’t quite what we’re looking for. We’re looking for a solid performance from our team, and that will trump any injury that we have.”

Oh by the way, the Bruins also have a road game at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday in a back-to-back situation that’s less than ideal with injuries piling up. In addition a Subban/McIntyre tandem in goal, the Bruins will also be without David Backes with what Claude Julien termed “a minor issue” that also has him day-to-day.

In the good news department, Adam McQuaid will make his season debut after missing the first five games of the season with an upper body injury. Rob O’Gara was sent to the Providence Bruins to make room for him coming off injured reserve. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings for tonight’s game vs. the Wild with Joe Morrow as the healthy scratch on the back end:







Liles-C. Miller