Haggerty: Bruins aren't themselves

630334.jpg

Haggerty: Bruins aren't themselves

WINNIPEG, MB The time has officially come to get concerned about the Boston Bruins.

Every team goes through a midseason malaise when fatigue creeps into a hockey clubs game, and the light of the NHL regular season tunnel is much too distant to seem attainable. But a team in normal seasonal doldrums can snap out of it when necessary and the Bruins have been attempting to right the ship for weeks without believably tangible success.

Injuries, uncharacteristic defensive breakdowns from reliable performers like Zdeno Chara and a couple of weak sauce efforts in the third period in back-to-back games have the Bruins battling some very uncharacteristic results. The latest out-of-character Bs performance had then folding in the third period like an aluminum VFW chair in a 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre.

For some reason we cant find a way to win two games in a row, said Krejci. I think it was a pretty good challenge for us in the third period and we felt good ourselves when we scored that second goal. But from there we sat back and we cant do that. We have to play to win.

We have to find a way to be the same Bruins that we used to be. It isnt that hard because we all know that its in this room. We just have to find it again.

The first step to overcoming the losses of Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley is within the elevated performances of the others still standing on the Bruins roster, and there werent enough players raising their level against the Jets. Tuukka Rask let in a pair of soft goals in the second period when a lockdown performance was needed.

Zdeno Chara is a minus-6 in his last three games while turning pucks over and moving very slowly and gingerly out on the ice a set of developments that could very well be fatigue or nagging health issues for the Bs Captain.

One shot on net apiece from Milan Lucic, Benoit Pouliot and Patrice Bergeron isnt good enough when all three need to be key offensive producers without Peverley and Horton. Pouliot needs to be much more highlight reel Pouliot than disappearing act Pouliot.

Its clear Claude Julien is going to ratchet up the conservative defensive game plan without two of his big offensive forwards, and is preaching adherence to the game plan and system.

That means the defensive cant afford breakdowns like the two Bryan Little rebound goals in the third period when the Bs blueliners couldnt clear the puck out of the zone. That also means the Bruins need elite goaltending from their puck-stopping tandem and they havent received that from Rask in more than a month.

Perhaps Peter Chiarelli will whip up a big deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning that will give Boston the defenseman (Pavel Kubina) and forward (Ryan Malone) they most desperately need. But until the cavalry arrives or good health returns, the Bruins are in strict suck it up mode.

We need to find a way to and we need to find answers. Its way too many ups and downs right now, said Patrice Bergeron. Its not even close to the effort that we need right now. Were working hard, but were not working smart. It hurts us so much when we do that. We get away from our game and we get away from our system, and thats when we get scored on.

One has to hope that part of the problem isnt straight out complacency. The Bruins know they wont be catching up to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference after they dropped both games to the Blueshirts over the last month. But the Bs also arent getting pushed by anybody in the Northeast Division with their closest competitor in Ottawafour points behind them with Boston holding a whopping four games in hand.

The Southeast Division doesnt appear to be any kind of threat in overtaking the Bruins for the No. 2 seed in the East either, so the Bs can just row merrily along on their schedule without much worry. The Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals are battling just to stay in the playoff picture without much hope of catching the B's. The Black and Gold will still end up near 100 points even if they go .500 the rest of the way on the regular season schedule, and thats a testament to how red-hot they were during the months of November and December.

The Bruins are comfortable despite the adversity set upon them, and thats partially a byproduct of the innate confidence that comes from winning a Stanley Cup. But theres also a deal danger that the Bruins will slip into a comfortable, mediocre trance for the rest of the regular season without anybody pushing hard at them.

That could leave them vulnerable during the playoffs if it takes them too long to rekindle the hungry Bruins team that leaves other hockey clubs cowering in their punch-filled path.

The only thing that can stir the Bruins from their February stupor is their own desire to be stronger and better than theyve been in more than a month. The Bruins still have a chance to turn their six-game road trip into a game-changer like last seasons undefeated voyage through Western Canada.

It all starts with playing Bruins hockey and getting the expected results, and that hasnt consistently been the casefor 17 games and counting.

Saturday, Aug. 27: Adding toughness Habs' priority

cp-morning-skate.jpg

Saturday, Aug. 27: Adding toughness Habs' priority

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, after a busy morning celebrating my 3-year-old’s birthday at the trampoline park. Yee-ha.

*PHT writer Joey Alfieri says that adding toughness was a big offseason priority for the Montreal Canadiens.

*There’s at least one big fan of the Edmonton Oilers trade that brought defenseman Adam Larsson from the New Jersey Devils, and that fan’s name is Mark Letestu.

*Here’s everything you need to know about the Ice Guardians movie premiering this fall that takes a long, balanced look at the NHL enforcers.

*Roberto Luongo has an alibi for the robbery in Winnipeg with one suspect getting away in goalie equipment, and it’s funny as you would expect it to be.

*CSN Washington takes a look at the New York Rangers in their season previews for the Metro Division.

*I’m not entirely sure whether this “RIP Harambe” thing is genuine or meant to be ironic by the largely millenial group that seem so enamored with it, but I think it’s just stupid. I think the same with the crying Jordan meme…also stupid.

*For something completely different: a look at how Triumph the Insult Comic Dog learned how to poop on Trump’s politics.

 

Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

countdown_to_camp_danton_heinen.png

Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

Click here for the gallery.

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Danton Heinen.

Danton Heinen exploded into a high-profile prospect for the Bruins after finishing among the NCAA’s top scoring players a couple of years ago as a freshman along with a couple of guys named Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin. 

Since then, Heinen has continued to produce offense at the University of Denver and continued to create offense that leads to points. Now, the 21-year-old Heinen will be entering the professional arena for his first full season with the Bruins and he’ll be attempting to transition from the prospect phase to a regular gig in the NHL. That’s the challenge for a talented player who appears headed into a very good opportunity in NHL training camp.

 

What happened last year

Heinen was every bit as explosive in his second season for Denver as he was in his brilliant freshman campaign. He improved on his scoring with 20 goals and 48 points in 41 games. Then Heinen signed with the Bruins at the end of his sophomore season and played in a couple of pro games in the AHL with Providence as a tune-up for this first full pro campaign with the Bruins organization. Heinen finished with two assists and a plus-1 rating in four games with the P-Bruins and showed the coaches in Providence that he was ready to play and produce with more talented players. If Heinen surprised a little bit as a breakout freshman two years ago, his sophomore follow-up in Denver last season proved to everybody that he wasn’t a fluke.

 

Questions to be answered this season

The real question surrounding Heinen is about his ceiling as an NHL player and just how good he can become as a player with the skills and playmaking abilities to be a top-six forward. He’s proven he can dominate at the collegiate level while admittedly playing with some pretty good teammates at Denver. Heinen showed at the end of the season in Providence that the pro scene might not be much different for him. At this point, Heinen simply needs to go out and prove it against the best players in the world and show that his speed, playmaking and hockey sense are all elite in the AHL or NHL. Heinen’s biggest obstacle might be his size. He'll need to survive as a targeted skill player despite not being much more than the 6-feet, 180-pound range for a forward. It’s about average for a playmaking wing in the NHL, but the hits and attention will be at a much more intense level than anything he faced in the NCAA world.

 

What they're saying

“He’s the type of player that he can play with good players because he’s got high hockey IQ and he’s got really good skill. I think anywhere you put him, he’s smart enough to figure it out. I think you’ll notice him during training camp. It will definitely be up to him, but I think he’ll push some guys.” –Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo on Heinen during last month’s development camp where Heinen soared as a performer.

 
Outlook

While Heinen still has some things he’ll need to prove before he’s a regular contributor for the Bruins, he comes into the Boston fold as an experienced player following two very good seasons at the college level. So, Heinen should be a little closer to plug-and-play for Claude Julien than some of the other young players that have come through the system in the past couple of years. Heinen will still need to flash in camp while being handed a big spot to perform with high-end veterans Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand potentially off playing in the World Cup of Hockey. Heinen also has a much greater chance of winning an NHL job sooner rather than later after the Bruins lost out on the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes and still have a top-six forward opening that somebody is going to fill. Heinen and Frank Vatrano are the two biggest favorites to fill that position, which became vacant when Loui Eriksson departed for Vancouver. Whichever winger loses that battle should be also be a strong candidate for a role on the third line, as well, barring any late veteran signings by the B’s. That set of circumstances leaves a very good situation for Heinen to potentially walk into with the Black and Gold, but he'll still have to show he’s fully capable of seizing his good fortune and good timing.