Bruins-Jets preview: Something's gotta give

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Bruins-Jets preview: Something's gotta give

WINNIPEG It should be a couple of desperate hockey teams when the Bruins and Winnipeg Jets suit up for a meeting at the normally raucous MTS Centre in Winnipeg on Sunday afternoon. Both teams are riding two-game losing streaks. It's the first such streak of the season for the Black and Gold. For Winnipeg it's just the latest blow to their pride as they tumble to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

We have to get back on track here, said Claude Julien said Saturday. Weve lost two in a row to New York and Buffalo, so we need to bounce back. We have to be ready to play tomorrow and we know what kind of a challenge we have in front of us. They have a good coach that gets them to play hard.

Theyre a hard-working team. Basically we have to be the better team tomorrow if we expect to win.

It starts with generating a little more offense than the 2.7 goals per game thats stuck them in the middle of the NHLs rankings this season. That was a problem for the Bruins against Buffalo after they failed to build a good enough lead against the Sabres Friday night before collapsing in the third period, and Bostons best players like Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron continue to have problems producing goals.

That kind of needed goal production will be more under the spotlight on Sunday afternoon because Milan Lucic has reported back to Boston to attend to personal reasons and 38-year-old veteran Jay Pandolfo will be inserted into the Boston lineup for the first time. Thats clearly an offensive downgrade for the Bruins, but it opens up a challenge for some of Bostons top-drawer offensive talent to finally get things going in a shortened season that wont look kindly on extended slumps.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Chris Kelly is still the only Bruins forward without a goal 12 games into the season, and has a minus-4 rating. The Bruins offense has been very average for the balance of the season and it can be traced to a couple of different things: the season-long goal-scoring struggles of Tyler Seguin and the inability of the Bs third line to kick in a little more. The Bruins were nearly undefeated last season when Kelly scored (he had 20 goals) so its clear how important the third lines contributions are to the success of the team. It needs to start happening for Kelly, who still doesnt look like he has his hands or timing back yet when he gets the chance to make plays in the offensive zone.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: They were a team that was really excited to be back here last year. The players can feel the passion and support of the fans on the ice. We came in here last year and they gave us some tough games. We lost both games here last year, but its a new year. Bruins coach Claude Julien talking about going winless at the MTS Centre against the Jets in two tries last season.

KEY MATCHUP: The Winnipeg Jets have the worst penalty-kill unit in the NHL while allowing close to 35 percent of their opponents power play chances to be successful, and theyll be going up against a Bruins man advantage that actually produced a goal Friday night against the Sabres. Things will look different for the Bs PP units with Lucic set to miss the game, but it also appears the Bruins man advantage finally started playing with a little more swagger and a lot more life and movement against Buffalo. If that carries over into Sunday afternoon, it could be the difference between winning and losing in Winnipeg.

STAT TO WATCH: 2 That's the number of game-winning goals for Winnipeg forward Bryan Little against the Bruins in two home games for the Jets at MTS Centre last season. I could have also gone with the team-worst minus-8 for Blake Wheeler this season, but thought Id take the high road.

INJURIES: Marc Savard (post-concussion syndrome) is expected to miss the season and be placed on long term injured reserve. Milan Lucic (personal reasons) will miss his first game of the season against the Jets after he had to fly back to Boston on Saturday afternoon for personal reasons. Winnipeg is expected to be without goaltender Al Montoya (lower body) and forward Antti Miettinen (upper body).

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask is expected to get the start coming off his worst game of the season while letting up a pair of bad goals Tuesday night against the New York Rangers. Rask has a .946 save percentage this season if you subtract his six goals allowed against the Sabres earlier this season, and has been excellent. Ondrej Pavelec has a 3.15 goals against average and an .890 save percentage that arent exactly going to get the job done, but he had arguably his best game of the season against the Bruins while making 26 saves in a Martin Luther King Day matinee.

Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

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Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while in disbelief mode that the summer is almost over.

*Good piece on the remainders of the Hartford Whalers organization in Connecticut trying to keep the dream alive for the Whale.

*Tyler Seguin sits down for a podcast this week that I freely admit I did not have the time to listen to. I wonder if Boston even rated a mention in the conversation?

*Rating the top NHL contracts, according to the fancy stats hockey analysts, sounds like an interesting exercise.

*Tracey Myers has Duncan Keith bowing out of the World Cup of Hockey while recovering from an injury, and getting replaced by Jay Boumeester.

*The “Da Beauty” Hockey League has kept players like Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan McDonagh and David Backes in hockey shape this summer while slowly getting ready for the season.

*The Arizona Coyotes make a historic hire by naming Dawn Braid as skating coach, making her the first female coach in the NHL.

*For something completely different: FOH (Friend of Haggs) Rich Shirtenlieb guested on the #DORK podcast this week, and it sounds like he didn’t love “Stranger Things.” At the very least he liked “Preacher” better. I thought Preacher was entertaining, but I didn’t even think it was in the same stratosphere as Stranger Things. Rich also has me wanting to watch “It Follows” now, however, after his endorsement.

 

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