Bruins reminded wins aren't automatic

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Bruins reminded wins aren't automatic

DALLAS Some nights you just dont have it.

Even if youre the Stanley Cup champions that have been on a path of destruction for the last two months, nobody will be perfect through an 82-game season.

Everybody around the Bruins has gotten used to winning nearly every game they suit up for, but sometimes the legs arent there and the breaks dont go the way theyre supposed to. The Black and Gold were able to eke out a win against the Phoenix Coyotes when they probably didnt deserve it, but that finally caught up to them deep in the heart of Texas.

Sometimes theyre just not the better team when the 29 other NHL clubs bring their A game for the Cup-hoisting champs on any given night. Thats exactly what happened when the Dallas Stars basically smacked the Bs in the mouth to a 4-2 tune at the American Airlines Center, and gave Michael Ryder the last laugh in his first game against the Bruins.

Obviously we didnt play the way we wanted to in the first two periods. If we played a lot more like we did in the third period than we did in the first two periods than we would have given ourselves a much better chance to win, said Milan Lucic, who scored a third period goal in an attempt to energize the Bs. We usually win most of the battles and have heavier sticks, but it seemed like they were winning most of those battles.

Sure there might have been a questionable call or two that went against the Bruins over the course of a rough first 40 minutes, and that was at the heart of a sequence that turned things away from Boston. With the game tied at 1-1 after a nice Tyler Seguin skirmish in front of the Dallas net turned into his 15th goal of the season, Tom Wandell decided to become the hockey version of vice grips. The gritty Dallas pivot clamped down on Milan Lucics right arm and stick as the Bs left wing carried the puck in the attack zone, and he locked on like a wrestler applying a signature move.

It was an unfortunate play, said Lucic. I felt like there was nothing I could do to get my stick out of that thing.

Wandells hold eventually stripped the puck from Lucic without a penalty kill, and the Stars were able to run a 4-on-2 rush into the Boston end when the Bs left winger looked to throw a hit and missed his target. Within seconds Trevor Daley scored on a shot that eventually bounced off the back of Tim Thomas and into the net, and the Stars had all of the momentum theyd need.

Claude Julien was steaming as he watched the Stars capitalize multiple times on six power play chances throughout the lopsided defeat, but afterward calmly admitted his squad simply didnt deserve to win. If it were the Winter Classic Julien would have tipped his 40s style fedora toward the Dallas bench, but alas everybody had to settle for the verbal version of tipping his cap to a dominant Stars squad.

It was maybe a tough night of officiating for us, but more than that it was us. We didnt play a very good game from the get-go, said Julien. From the first guy to the last guy tonight I dont think we had a very strong game. Its unfortunate, but those are things that will maybe make us better in the upcoming game. We know that we have to bounce back.

We could talk about a lot of things. Id rather look at us. We didnt get much help, but we werent a very good team tonight. They were. They played extremely. They were physical, they were on top of us and they were playing well. They were, without a doubt, the better team tonight.

The Bs didnt win enough puck battles, couldnt match the physicality of a Stars team that belted out 36 hits to Bostons 15 registered body checks and didnt come close to necessary grit in the offensive end while totaling a pitiful 11 shots on net in the first two periods.

David Krejci was pounded in the face-off circle by Steve Ott throughout the game, the Stars exploited the holes in Joe Corvos defensive game and Brad Marchand was the invisible brat for a Bs team that need some emotional spark. They werent the only ones, however, as there really wasnt a single Bs player that deserved back slaps or accolades when it was all over.

Things got a little better in the third period after Claude Julien implored his team to man up for the final 20 minutes, but thats not good enough to take down a playoff-caliber team spotted with a two-goal lead. Theres no need to point fingers or rake any particular unit over the coals after one singular loss amid an avalanche of points and victories.

But the defeat speaks to how delicate the winning formula can be even when the Bruins are seemingly sitting on top of the world. Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan joked before the game that his coaching staff had to make some stuff up when looking for weak spots on the Bruins given the way they were playing.

But whatever they concocted seemed to work to a tee.

A little emotional detachment, an injury to a key player or simple tired legs from too many games in too few nights can drag a good team into the morass of mediocrity and a humbling reminder of those inalienable hockey facts can never hurt.

Nobody will ever admit that a loss is a good thing in the realm of pro sports except for perhaps the odd columnist or two that thinks its a good idea to end a winning streak before the playoffs to get the loss out of the way but the Bs hatred of losing will be stoked by a one-sided loss to Dallas.

One loss to a Western Conference opponent on New Years Eve isnt the end of the world, but it could be the start of it if the Bruins dont learn their lessons well. The rings resting in their safety deposit boxes stand as proof that they will, and theyll be a better team for it.

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.