Canucks win special teams battle

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Canucks win special teams battle

BOSTON -- The bottom line when it was all said and done for the Bruins: the Canucks are going to win a special teams battle against Boston nearly every single time.

The Bruins were whistled for 15 penalties and 55 minutes worth of infractions, and handed the Vancouver Canucks 11 power play chances in the 4-3 loss to Vancouver on home ice. The Canucks entered the Saturday matinee leading the NHL with a power play thats been successful 23.6 percent of the time, and its their bread and butter.

Draw penalties by any means necessary, get the Sedins and Co. on the man advantage and then rinse and repeat. A combination of undisciplined mistakes by a slightly overhyped Bruins team and some very questionable whistles from referees struggling to maintain control led to four power play goals for Vancouver.

The Canucks went 4-for-11 on the man advantage and the Bruins went 0-for-7, and that was the ballgame just as it was during the Cup Finals. Vancouver is searching for a special teams fiesta and thats what they found at TD Garden courtesy of Dan ORourke and Don VanMassenhoven raising their hands early and often.

Our job is not to assess or comment on referees. Im not stupid enough to stand up here and criticize them. What I can tell you is that Vancouver scored four power play goals, so we gave them an opportunity to score on their bread and butter, said Claude Julien. Instead of criticizing the referees, I would much prefer criticizing us for the penalties whether theyre worthy or not, take the responsibility.

We knew before the game started that they have a good power play, and I thought two of them, two of the goals they scored, were nice power play goals, and youve got to give them credit. The other two, I thought we could have done a better job on them.

It was apparently early on when the Canucks earned a 5-on-3 advantage out of their prison yard-style attack on Shawn Thornton that special teams would be a factor in the game. The Bruins nearly killed off that power play, but finally broke down when Sami Salo found Ryan Kesler open for a scorched one-timer.

Sure there was also an Alex Burrows power play tip off a Cory Hodgson shot courtesy of a Tyler Seguin tripping penalty in the second period, but the real backbreaker was Brad Marchands five minute major and game misconduct for clipping near the end of the second period.

The Canucks scored two goals during those next five minutes a Henrik Sedin tip from the high slot off an Alex Edler shot and a Hodgson sniper shot to start the third period and the Bruins simply werent able to come back. Kevin Bieksa tried to paint Marchands actions as the reason his squad was ultimately successful, and took a few shots at the Bs after it was all over.

We play hard, but we are a disciplined team. Thats what separates us from the Bruins. They obviously play hard, but they tend to do stupid things, said Bieksa. The Marchand hit was a pretty stupid thing and Im sure hell be getting a phone call for that one. There is no reason for that. But we made them pay for that. We got to score two goals on that power play and thats the game. Marchand has got to live with that.

It might have been a different story if the power play had been able to do some damage against the Cory Schneider and the Canucks, but sadly their PP performance was yet another flashback to last years Finals with an empty 0-for-7 showing.

Combine that with the loss of Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand to game misconducts by midway through the second period, and it wasnt exactly a banner evening for the Bs and their penalties.

We had some pretty big obstacles to overcome, and some of it was losing two real good players out of your lineup and having a short bench. That didnt help, but had we stayed out of the box -- and not given them the power plays that we gave them -- I really felt, five-on-five, we controlled the play, said Julien. Thats where our strength is, and unfortunately, when you give up four power play goals in a game, youve got to look at yourself and take the blame. Its as simple as that.

The Canucks won the special teams battle and this days war, and thats one thing that cant really be argued.

Julien reaches breaking point with struggling, inconsistent Bruins

Julien reaches breaking point with struggling, inconsistent Bruins

It sounds like Claude Julien has reached a breaking point with a fragile, inconsistent group of Bruins players who have lost four games in a row at a critical point in the season.

The Bruins dropped a 5-1 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday afternoon, and completely fell apart in the final period after Tuukka Rask was lifted because of migraine issues in the middle of the game. It was a typical Bruins effort, in which there weren’t enough scoring chances despite 45 shots on net -- largely from the perimeter -- and the defense totally unraveled in the third period once the Penguins got their offense going.

After the loss, the embattled Julien challenged his players, saying they weren’t providing enough across the board . . . which has largely been the case for the last two months as the Bruins have stagnated as a team.

“If you look at some of the mistakes we made, it’s a team that just got unraveled there in the third period,” he told reporters after the game. “With the opportunities that we had, we don’t capitalize on them. You always give the goaltender on the other side some (Matt Murray) credit. He was good tonight but at the same time, if you’re going to win hockey games, you’ve got to find ways to get [shots] through to him.

"It’s frustrating. There are a lot of guys that, right now, aren’t giving us enough, and this is a team that I think needs all 20 guys going in order to win. We don’t have enough talent to think that we can get away with a mediocre game, so this is where it’s important for our guys to understand that and it’s important to have 20 guys that want to go. It’s okay to have talent, but you’ve got to compete. For others, you’ve got to get involved. You’ve got to be willing to do the things that are not fun to do but are going to help your hockey club. It’s too bad because I think the players we expect a lot out of every night are certainly battling every night, but we need more than that . . .

“When you’ve lost three, now four in a row, it sets in. We’ve got to find a way to turn this around and start going back to the drawing board with our guys respecting what they need to do and be patient enough to give it time to turn around. When I say patience I don’t mean we need to do it in the next week. We need to do it next game but we need to respect what we’ve done well and when we’re in our game and within our structure we’ve had success but in order to be within the structure, you’ve got to be willing to want to do those things. Right now, we don’t have everybody and it just takes one guy not to want to do his job and it throws everybody else off. We have to look at personnel that way, and say that if we need to replace some guys, and we need to be patient with others, I want guys that care and want guys that want to come in and give it their all every night. We need more of that, and we don’t have enough right now.”

It remains to be seen what, or who, Julien is referring to when he mentioned personnel during his postgame comments, but it’s clear he's well aware the effort hasn’t been consistently good enough over the last two months.
 
The Bruins have dropped to third in the Atlantic Division, with the Maple Leafs just a point behind them while holding a whopping six games in hand. Even struggling teams like the Panthers, Lightning and Hurricanes have caught up to the B’s in the playoff race, while holding games in hand.

The B’s are in big, big trouble at this point in the season, and it doesn’t get any easier with games against an improving Red Wings club and the dominant Penguins prior to a much-needed break recess for the All-Star break.