Bruins-Hurricanes preview: B's looking to reverse the tide

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Bruins-Hurricanes preview: B's looking to reverse the tide

RALEIGH, NC The Bruins have been reminded of last years putrid performances against the Carolina Hurricanes over the past few days, so it should go without saying that theyll come out with a purpose at PNC Arena on Monday night.

The Canes outscored them by a 14-5 margin during a four-game regular season sweep last year that can only be described as a royal butt-kicking, no matter how the numbers are broken down. Sure the players that did most of the damage against the Bruins wont be suiting up for Carolina, this time around (Anthony Stewart and Brandon Sutter were both traded and Tuomo Ruutu is gone for the season after hip surgery), but the Hurricanes can still do some damage against the Bruins.

Its a pretty important game for us, said Bruins coach Claude Julien. This is a team that gave us a fair share of trouble last year and they improved their roster. Theyve won their last couple of games, so its going to be a challenge for us. There are certain teams that give other teams trouble. Theyre a four-man attack team and they always have a D up on the rush.

We havent played our best against them, and theyve played some very good games against us. Its one of those things where we want to get that win against them as quick as we can, so we can get the monkey off our back.

Of the returning players, Eric Staal scored three goals in the four games against the Black and Gold and will team with brother Jordan Staal, Alex Semin and Jeff Skinner to form a formidable offensive attack. The Bruins will be looking to protect Anton Khudobin in his first start of the season; he sat for the first nine days of the NHL season waiting for Tuukka Rask to take a breather.

Theres no doubting the Hurricanes played inspired hockey in the second half of last season once Kirk Muller took the coaching reigns and theyll be smack in the middle of a wide-open Southeast Division as both Florida and Washington have stumbled out of the starting box. The challenge for the Bruins will be not looking past them to a home date against the reigning Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Devils tomorrow night at TD Garden.

But Juliens reminders about last years four-game drubbing at the hands of Carolina certainly shouldnt have fallen on deaf ears as they ready for the first end of their first back-to-back games in the compressed NHL schedule.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Tyler Seguin has 11 shots on net in four games and has had a handful of good scoring opportunities, but is looking for his first NHL goal this season after potting 25 in 29 games while in Switzerland. Bruins officials believe that part of Seguins goal-scoring drought is attributed to the readjustment to the smaller rinks in North America, and the aggressive defenses that go right along with it.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Their record against us last year is something were well aware of and were going into the game well-prepared. They come at the net hard, they open up a lot and we havent been at our best against that kind of a team. We just havent been as prudent playing against a team like that. We need to take away their shots from the point and make sure we clear away any traffic from the front of the net.
Claude Julien, speaking about a Carolina Hurricanes club that dominated the Bs in four regular season meetings last year.

KEY MATCHUP: The Carolina Hurricanes are fresh off a 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres where Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner both tallied power play goals for a young and hungry 'Canes team. Until the Bs power play gets moving, theyll need to continue to hold down the other teams PP unit as theyve done while going a perfect 14-for-14 on the penalty kill this season. That will be a stiff challenge for killers like Patrice Bergeron, Chris Kelly, Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk as they look to hold down the Carolina man advantage featuring the Staal Brothers, Semin and Skinner in a potent attack. They only currently rank 23rd in the NHL currently, but it looks like the Canes PP is trending upward.

STAT TO WATCH: .965 the save percentage for Carolina goaltender Cam Ward last season in four very good games between the pipes against the Bruins while going 4-0 against them.

INJURIES: Marc Savard (post-concussion syndrome) is expected to miss the season and be placed on long term injured reserve. Dennis Seidenberg (lower body injury) returned to the lineup against the Islanders Friday, and said felt fine after skating 18-plus minutes in the win. Carolina forward Tuomo Ruutu (hip) -- a noted Bruins killer in the past -- is likely to miss the entire regular season.

GOALTENDING MATCHUP: Anton Khudobin is largely an unknown to Bruins Nation with only last years 44-save masterpiece against the Ottawa Senators at the end of last season to use as a frame of reference. But the 26-year-old Khudobin does hold outstanding numbers overall with a 5-1 record, a .961 save percentage and a 1.32 goals against average in seven career NHL games between the Bruins and the Minnesota Wild. For the Hurricanes, Cam Ward will look to build on an excellent career body of work against the Black and Gold that includes a seven-game playoff series win against them for years ago and a 4-0 record with a .965 save percentage and a 1.25 goals against average in the regular season domination. It could be exactly what Ward needs as hes struggled out of the gate thus far for Carolina.

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

It’s no secret Bruins fans are getting fed up with a hockey team in decline, one that’s missed the playoffs each of the last two years. Now there are numbers to prove it.

Channel Media and Market Research, Inc. came out with its annual New England Sports survey,  tabulating responses from over 14,600 polled, and, according to the numbers, the Bruins are dropping in popularity, fan support and faith in the current management group.

The B’s are holding somewhat steady with 16 percent of voters listing them as their “favorite sports team” behind the Patriots (46 percent) and Red Sox (29 percent) while ahead of the Celtics and Revolution. Claude Julien also ranked ahead of John Farrell among the big four teams in the “coaches/manages most admired” category.

But after sitting at a relative high of ranking at 27 percent for “ownership performance” in 2014 -- they year after their trip to the Cup Finals against the Blackhawks -- the Bruins now rank dead last in that category at 2 percent, behind the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and even the Revolution. Ouch, babe.

Also sitting at a lowly 2 percent is Bruins president Cam Neely in the “leadership performance” category. In "management performance," Neely has dropped from a solid 49 percent in 2014 to just 16 percent in this summer’s survey.

So B’s fans are clearly upset with a team that traded away Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk, Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, and has featured a decimated defense corps for each of the last two seasons. But do the B’s fans think that things are getting any better with prospects coming down the pipeline?

Not really.

In the “which team has done the best job making its product better.” category, the Patriots (35 percent) and Red Sox (31 percent) were resting at the top, with the Celtics (27 percent) a respectable third. The Bruins limped in at just 4 percent with a fan base that very clearly sees that, on paper, this upcoming season’s club doesn’t appear to be much better than last year's.

On top of that, only 13 percent of those surveyed believe the Bruins have gotten better over the last year, and 52 percent believe they’ve just gotten worse. A lowly 3 percent of those surveyed think the Bruins have the best chance of the five teams to bring a world championship back to Boston; the Patriots (79 percent), Red Sox (11 percent) and Celtics (5 percent) all ranked higher.

Finally, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Hayes were at the top of the list of the Boston athletes “who did not meet expectations” last season. None of that is a surprise, given the state of Boston’s defense along with Hayes’ subpar season.

The good news for the Bruins: They still have a passionate fan base. But they need to start reversing course immediately before they do lasting damage to the B’s brand.

Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

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Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading with the Olympics coming to a close . . .
 
-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kirk Luedeke sorts through the aftermath for the Bruins after losing out on Jimmy Vesey

-- Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland gave an interview where he said the Red Wings aren’t Stanley Cup contenders this season. 

-- Related to Holland’s comments, some of the media in Detroit aren’t taking the dose of reality all that well

-- It’s a big season for New Jersey Devils forward Kyle Palmieri, who will be starring for Team USA on the World Cup team. 

 -- PHT writer Cam Tucker says the Buffalo Sabres still have a strong group of forwards even without Jimmy Vesey.

-- Jamie Benn is giving everything to his Dallas Stars team, and that means that the World Cup of Hockey is taking a backseat
 
-- The Colorado Avalanche are nearing the end of their head coaching search as they look for their replacement for Patrick Roy.
 
-- For something completely different: NBC is making the argument that millenials watched the Olympics, but just not on the traditional formats