B's trying to avoid familiar struggles

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B's trying to avoid familiar struggles

WILMINGTON, Mass. The Bruins are taking great care to keep frustration and high emotions at bay.

It was both team feelings that spiraled out of control during their 3-7 start in the month of October, and got the Bs out of their team concepts when things didnt go their way early in those games. The Bruins hit posts, missed open nets and simply couldnt finish off plays in a series of tight games that turned into an embarrassingly sluggish start pretty quickly.

Those offensive performance problems cropped up again in their two consecutive losses to the Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers.

There are lots of reasons to want to play better and redeem ourselves, said Claude Julien. We hit four or five posts against the Panthers, but the game before we didnt score much and havent been burying our chances. You cant just chalk that up to bad luck, so we need to be better that way.

We didnt make a lot of mistakes defensively, but a lot of their scoring chances were off our turnovers. So there is lots of room for us to improve wither its winning or losing. We need to look at it that way.

But Brad Marchand doesnt see a connection between a Cup-winning team staggering out of the starting gate, and a team floating through a midseason lull after playing dominant hockey for a month.

The pesky Bs winger talked about the Bruins continuing to create scoring chances, but it also might be a hockey team taking the foot off the gas pedal every so slightly.

You want them to go in, but the fact that weve gotten the opportunities speaks volumes for the way weve played, said Marchand. Sometimes you have games where they dont go in and sometimes you have games where everything goes in. I dont think were frustrated right now by any means, though, after the run we just had.

We could maybe bear down a little more in front of the net. But weve had good opportunities and run into a couple of hot goalies making great saves at the right times. As long as were getting opportunities we have to be happy.

The Bruins managed only a single goal a greasy Shawn Thornton goal in the third period of their loss to Winnipeg but hit five posts against the Panthers in their second shutout defeat of the season. Milan Lucic was stoned on a wide open shot from the slot when Jose Theodore made a sweeping glove save and Thorntons line couldnt flip a puck into a net vacated by the Florida goaltender when the Bs got their chances early in the game.

The Bruins power play cranked at close to a 25 percent success clip during the month of November as well, but the man advantage has gone 0-for-7 in the two losses. Thats one area that can be turned around quickly, and should given how much better the puck movement and chemistry between teammates is this season.

It starts with freeing Zdeno Chara up for more steaming one-time slap shots from the between the face-off dots, and then opens up everything else on a man advantage that can supply offense even when things arent falling for the Bruins during five on-five play.

Columbus doesnt represent the normal wakeup call team for the Bruins, but it doesnt seem to matter much with the Bruins looking to break up the two-game losing stretch.

Everyone in here is trying to get that spark. Its going to happen, said Tyler Seguin, who finished with a pair of shots on net in his return to the lineup after a healthy scratch against Winnipeg. Its a long season and everyone is going to go through droughts when we cant find the back of the net. But were still working hard at it. I think the effort is there and its about bearing down now.

It seemed for more than a month that nothing could go wrong for the Bruins offensively, but now thats been turned on its ear. Its time for the Black and Gold to reserve that trend before they begin undoing all the good work they did for more than a month of butt-kicking Bruins hockey.

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

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.