Bruins hope LucicHorton breakup sparks team


Bruins hope LucicHorton breakup sparks team

BOSTON -- Claude Julien now looks like something of a hockey prophet after openly wondering two weeks ago if he might just have to break up last years top scoring line for the Bruins. Offensive struggles can prompt bold changes, and the Bs are finally getting a little bold.

The line-change predictions came true in the third period of Bostons Tuesday night loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, and it now appears further changes will be in the offing in their next game.

The Bs coach, who gave the top trio ample time together to work things out, admitted he didnt know what might happen with changed forward combinations but the status quo wasnt getting it done among the 12 forwards.

The Bruins are dead last in the NHL with 1.67 goals per game after their first six games of the season, and its clear many of the name forwards are pressing too hard.

The Bruins havent had a first-period goal since the season-opening loss to the Flyers, and havent held a lead in a games two periods since their second game of the year against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

All of these trends dont bode well for the Stanley Cup champs, and many of the individual players are being pretty hard on themselves.

The way Im playing; the way were not scoring, both me personally and the team, said Nathan Horton. Im not playing the way I want to play. We just need to work harder. Everybody just needs to get back to playing the way they can, playing with more confidence and wanting to do things with the puck when they we have it.

So the Bs coach pushed Chris Kelly to top line center in a temporary move with Milan Lucic and Tyler Seguin on either side of the defensive center, and Nathan Horton was slotted in on the second line right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

That leaves Rich Peverley as the third-line center, sharing reps with David Krejci, with Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Caron as their wingers alongside the speedy Peverley for Thursday nights game against the new-look Leafs.

"I wish I could stand here and pretend I'm a genius, but I don't know what I'm going to get," Julien said of the line alterations. "I just know what I was getting wasn't good enough."

The biggest development of the forward combination switcheroo was the separation of Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton as bookend power forward wingers after a largely unsuccessful six games.

The Bruins are 2-4 in their six games, last in the NHL in goal-scoring, and three points along with a minus-1 out of Horton and Lucic in 12 games. The struggles of Lucic and Horton might not be the biggest problem facing the Black and Gold in their first half-dozen games, but theyre clearly not part of the solution either.

For their part, both wingers expressed personal frustration at the slow starts to their seasons, and openly admitted their games havent yet reached anything approaching optimal levels. Lucic went one step further and said he wholeheartedly supported the line changes, and understood the back-to-basics mindset required to get him back on track.

In simple terms Lucic knows he must play the steaming-locomotive style that helped him earn his reputation as an intimidating player, and hes strayed away from that player as hes developed into a 30-goal scorer in the NHL.

Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to take a step forward, and thats where I am personally at this point, said Lucic. Maybe Im trying to do too much and thinking about doing too much, and its causing me to do nothing. I need to step back and focus on playing that straight-line, strong-along-the-walls style and just simplify my game.

When Im pushing the puck up and chipping it in, thats when Im most successful. There have been spurts where Ive played well, but not enough of it. This year were a little bit late here and there, were not finding each other when were open and were not seeing each other as well. Thats why theres a need for a change. I support this decision for a change, and we just have to work our way out of this to find our game again.

Lucic actually had some very good chances in the three games leading up to the emotional Carolina loss, and fired off nine shots in those three games without getting anything to the back of the net. But Lucic was shut out in the shot department in the loss to the Hurricanes, and the Bs power forward is hoping that will change with some new faces sparking his game.

Weve been together for six games now and things havent been going as well and we know they should be going, said Lucic. We havent scored a first period goal in a while now, so its not to bad a thing to switch things up.

This kind of starts us off fresh here. Its not a bad thing. Its just a new look to get things going.

A fresh start is exactly what the Bruins need after six games, and it remains to be seen if the new look and newly adopted attitudes make a difference.

Bergeron 'feeling good' in return, plays role of third period hero

Bergeron 'feeling good' in return, plays role of third period hero

BOSTON – It certainly feels appropriate that Patrice Bergeron would author a clutch game-winning goal late in the third period of his first game back after missing a week of games with a lower body injury. That Bergeron’s game-winner also arrived in the home opener at TD Garden was an added bonus once No. 37 hammered a shot from the high slot with 1:15 to go in the third period to give the Bruins their first lead of the game in a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden.

The goal arrived courtesy of a nifty setup from linemate Brad Marchand working behind the New Jersey net, and also thanks to David Pastrnak winning a battle in the corner thanks to newfound grit in his game. But the hero of the day again turned out to be No. 37, who went from missing an entire week of action to reclaiming his center role on the top line, playing 16:49 of ice time and winning 13-of-24 face-offs while generating five shot attempts.

“I think it’s pretty obvious with what he did [against the Devils]. After being off for over a week and to come back and have one practice with us then back into the game, he scores a clutch goal for us. That’s what he has always been, a clutch player for us,” said Claude Julien. “I think the third period we gave it a really good push there and I like seeing that from our team that you come out and you don’t play on your heels and you push hard and we went down by a goal but we got our game going like I said and we got a couple goals to win this for us.”

Bergeron modestly said postgame that he was just trying to get into the flow of the game after missing a healthy chunk of time with injury. But he certainly looked like he was vintage form once it crunch time. The timing was perfect as he stepped into the one-timer shot off Marchand’s pass, and beat Cory Schneider amid a strong 34-save performance by the kid from Marblehead.

“I mean I was just trying to, I guess, get my feet wet right away and use the first few shifts to kind of just get, feel good about my positioning and my skating,” said Bergeron. “As the game went on I just felt better. Of course you want to start on a good note, especially at home, and we talked about our home record in the last few years. We wanted to do the job early, especially in the first game, and it’s one step but we’re happy with it.”

It was like Bergeron didn’t miss a single beat after missing the first three games of the season with a lower body injury, and those kinds of instincts and natural ability are things worth marveling about when it comes to the Bruins.

“I was feeling good [on the ice],” said Bergeron. “It would have been nice to ride the wave of the World Cup, but that being said I thought in the first I was trying to be good position ally and kind of get myself going with the first few shifts, and just kind of go from there. Overall I thought that happened.”

While the comeback win was certainly good news for the Bruins, the best news of all is that Bergeron has returned to the lineup with no signs of an injury that surprised everybody right before the start of the regular season.