Haggerty: Bruins get back to business

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Haggerty: Bruins get back to business

BOSTON -- Thursday nights performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs smacked of back to work night for the Boston Bruins.

Game Story: Bruins 6, Maple Leafs 2
Itvery much appearedthe Bs players finally had their minds collectively trained backto the business of hockey for the first time this season, and the results were undeniable with six goals scored, 43 shots on net and a pair of power play strikes. For a team that entered the Leafs game as the lowest goals per game (1.67) offense in the NHL, the Bruins finally managed to find their exhausting workethic for the 6-2 slump-buster of a winning effort over the Leafs at TD Garden.The B's really don't know any other way to compete and work, and they showed again in one night their pathway to hockey success.

You want to get out of that hump, I guess, as quickly as possible, so obviously there's always urgency when things are going like that. You want to get out of the slump and we're proud guys; we want to be on top every night obviously, said Patrice Bergeron. So right now I think it is a good effort, but we've seen it too often in the past six games. You have to be consistent and we need to have a good effort on Saturday against the Sharks as well.

Thats the thing now for a Bruins team thats found their blue collar mojo, and reintroduced themselves to their pre-Stanley Cup routines. The Bruins need to simply work for goals that arent going to arrive mostnightsvia pretty little plays on the ice, and earn everything they receivein this hockey world just as they did last season.

The lines were "new look" after Claude Julien threw the top three forward lines into a blender and pressed down on the high speed mixbutton, but it wasn't the exact dynamics of the lines that made it all work. Itwas all about the Bruins regulars rolling up their sleeves, punching the clock and getting to work. After all, the Bruins dont have the high-end offensive talent to float around and create exotic goal-scoring plays without their blue collar attitude and willingness to pay the price in the dangers areas.

The Bruins need to crowd big bodies in front of the net and engage in liberal use of the turbo skating speed button while speedingpucks into the offensive zone. Theyhad all of those things and more like their hockey pants were aflamewith a different kind of urgency against the Leafs. The Bs to a manknow they need to have their act together by the time November hits on the NHL calendar, and they took a big step in that direction against Phil Kessel and the upstart Leafs.

Its probably not a coincidence that all of the players with letters on their Bs sweaters stepped up with their biggest games of the season, and Shawn Thornton served his role to a tee by trading punches with Colton Orr in exchange for an emotional lift.

Andrew Ference served up three assists in the first 20 minutes and was working the control at the point on the power play like Bruins fans wished Tomas Kaberle could have last year. The dish to Zdeno Chara was a thing of beauty.Speaking ofChara, the B's Captainstepped up to finally crack the Bs offensive ledger with three points and some needed production on the power play.It wasn't difficult to see Chara's 105-mph slapper put the fear of God into Jonas Gustavsson by winding up for a one-timer in the right face-off circle.

Thats a far cry from Charas normal shooting point far away by the blue line. Gustavsson never even saw the shot coming, and could have been excused if he needed a change of underwear after watching Charas heat-seeking missilecoming at him from such close range.

It's so close and obviously that's a goal any time, said Bergeron with a smirk thinking about Chara winding up the hammer so uncharacteristically close to the Toronto net. It's an unbelievable shot and that's a great look from all the guys on the ice to get that opening for 'Z.'

We moved a lot more- we're more active as players on the ice as well -- to get open and to find passing lanes and then shooting. We're not hesitating and we're not thinking. We're just using instincts right now and that's how hockey's played.

Chris Kelly manned things upbetween Milan Lucic and Tyler Seguin, and oversaw an
offensive surge within that trio of forwards that produced three-point games for both wingers while opening things up for all involved. That from a two-way defensive pivot that some routinely dismiss when it comes to the offensive end of the ice, and a player that's become a giant leadership influence within the room.Patrice Bergeron set the tone for the other top six forward group by racking up a team-high nine shots, and truly set the leadership tone by bringing his A game to the ice for a full 60 minutes of intense hockey. His top shelf wrister in the third period turned the game from competitive to a smile-filled laugher in no time at all.

It was just about everybody focusing on their game and playing with some energy and desperation in a good way, said Claude Julien. I thought we were determined tonight, really determined as a group, and maybe we needed to play better as individuals. As a team that kind of effort would probably translate into a good team game as well.

The big performances from the extended Bs leadership group, the losses and wins piling up in either side of the ledger after two weeks, and the shuffled up Bs rotation of forwards all spelled to a greater sense of urgency against a Toronto hockey club thats one of the hottest in the NHL just a couple of weeks into the season. It spoke to a group of influential B's players that decided it was time to put the hard hats back on, and start grinding away at the 82-game gauntlet.

Of course Tim Thomas put his imprint on the victory just as seriously and appropriately as the rest of his teammates, and the 37-year-old was at his best in the second period when the Bruins fell asleep for a time.

The mission now for the Bruins with seemingly all 20 players on board for a statement win of sorts just three weeks into October: crush a weakened and weary San Jose Sharks on Saturday night at the Garden to perpetuate some of the consistency thats eluded themafter solid early wins against the Lightning and Blackhawks. The B's need to start piling up wins, and they need to do it now.

You want to get out of that hump, I guess, as quickly as possible, so obviously there's always urgency when things are going like that. You want to get out of the slump and we're proud guys; we want to be on top every night obviously, said Bergeron. So right now I think it is a good effort, but we've seen it too often in the past six games. You have to be consistent and we need to have a good effort on Saturday against the Sharks as well.

Thats the thing now for a Bruins team thats found their work fervor, and reintroduced themselves to their pre-Stanley Cup roots. The motto is simple: the Bruins need to simply work for goals that arent going to arrive via pretty little plays and earn everything they get in this hockey world just as they did last season.The challenge is a little morecomplex:to carry that out consistently for the rest of the season

Haggerty: Bruins would be foolish to trade Brandon Carlo

Haggerty: Bruins would be foolish to trade Brandon Carlo

There’s been smoke for weeks signaling trade talks between the Boston Bruins and the Colorado Avalanche, and things are reportedly heating up with the Bruins potentially reaching a tipping point with their subpar play on the ice. According to Bleacher Report columnist Adrian Dater, things may be progressing between the two teams because the Bruins are beginning to entertain the idea of trading away 20-year-old top pairing rookie defenseman Brandon Carlo.

Bruins Director of Player Personnel John Ferguson Jr. was expected to be out in Colorado scouting the Avalanche/Blackhawks game on Tuesday night, and perhaps getting a long look at players like Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and Tyson Barrie among others.

The expectation is that 24-year-old Landeskog is in the middle of these trade discussions, and that he would be one of the players targeted by a Bruins team that could use more size on the wing, and more players that can put the puck in the net. Certainly Landeskog has done that in his brief NHL career after being a No. 2 overall pick, and has four 20-goal seasons on his resume prior to a disappointing, injury-plagued current season in Colorado.

The word around the league was that talks fizzled between the Bruins and Avs previously when Joe Sakic asked about the availability of the Colorado Springs native Carlo, and those discussions hit the same crunching roadblock that Winnipeg did in discussions with Boston about Jacob Trouba.

Perhaps that has changed in the last 24 hours after Cam Neely and Don Sweeney watched their Bruins completely no-show against the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the New York Islanders, on Monday afternoon. Now one would expect that Bruins management is getting desperate feeling that a third “Did Not Qualify” for the Stanley Cup playoffs could be in their future if they don’t make a bold, swift move to shake up their dazed hockey club.

But let’s not pull any punches here. The entire Bruins management group should be fired on the spot if they trade a 20-year-old, top pairing shutdown defenseman on an entry level contract like Carlo unless they are getting a bona fide superstar in return. Carlo, Charlie McAvoy and David Pastrnak should all be young, untouchable assets for a Bruins organization that is years away from legitimately holding a chance at a Stanley Cup.

Landeskog is not a bona fide superstar. He’s a good player that’s topped out at 26 goals and 65 points in the NHL, but he’s also the Captain on a horrendous, underachieving Avalanche team over the last three years.

If the price were right for Landeskog it would make all the sense in the world for the Bruins to deal him, but it’s a giant honking red flag that Colorado is looking to unload a player like him that’s signed for a reasonable $5.5 million price tag over the next four seasons. Teams don’t trade young players like that with term unless there’s more to the story, and that’s something the Bruins would do well to consider before giving up a player that could be a top-4 shutdown defenseman in Boston for the next 10 years.

Teams like the Bruins that are in reloading mode also shouldn’t be trading 20-year-old players for 24-year-old players that have already cashed in on their second contract. That’s exactly how the Bruins can get right back into salary cap trouble, and do it with a team that’s producing far less than the Peter Chiarelli groups that were at least still making the playoffs.  

Certainly the Bruins have other young D-men like Charlie McAvoy, Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon coming down the pipeline, but none of those defensemen are in the mold of a true shutdown D like the 6-foot-5 Carlo. With Zdeno Chara in the final few years of his career with the Black and Gold, the B’s are going to need Carlo to slide into that defensive stopper role given his size, strength, wing span and willingness to do the dirty work the D-zone.

That goes beyond the simple fact that rebuilding the back end with ALL of those young stud D-men is the best way to actually build the Bruins back up into a legitimate Eastern Conference power. 

It would be a giant mistake for the Bruins to ship away a player like Carlo with the hope Landeskog can put Boston over the hump for the playoffs this season, and perhaps ease some of the intense pressure currently weighing on Sweeney and Neely. That kind of desperate move smacks of doing it for all of the wrong reasons, and that’s one way to ensure that the Bruins will never escape the web of mediocrity that they’re currently caught in. 

Haggerty: From top to bottom, still no urgency from Bruins

Haggerty: From top to bottom, still no urgency from Bruins

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins pulled the worst of their no-shows on Monday afternoon in the 4-0 shutout loss to the Islanders.

It was a lethargic, mediocre start in the first period that devolved into the bottom dropping out on the Black and Gold when they allowed three unanswered goals in the second. Then, to top it all off, they showed zero urgency or push to make a comeback in the final period. 

It was “unacceptable” in the words of the Bruins players from beginning to end with careless, elementary mistakes in the defensive zone and absolutely zero sustained push in the offensive zone despite a deceiving 32 shots on net.

So, where was the urgency for a Bruins team that’s barely ahead of the Maple Leafs and Senators in the Atlantic Division despite having played six more games than each of those two?

Apparently the Bruins were feeling a little cocky after playing a solid five-game stretch where they’d gone 3-1-1 and taken down the Panthers, Blues and Flyers while elevating their level of play. Heart and soul team leader Patrice Bergeron admitted as much on Tuesday morning as the Bruins cancelled practice and turned their attention toward righting the ship Wednesday night in Detroit.

It was frankly a little stunning to hear Bergeron admit that his Bruins team thought they could win just by showing up on Monday afternoon, but that’s exactly what he copped to in something of an apologetic way.

Brad Marchand said Monday postgame that the Bruins “just weren’t ready [to play]” against the Islanders, and it sounded like his linemate agreed with him.

“It’s about realizing that you can’t take teams lightly, or take the foot off the gas pedal for a period, for a game, or whatever. It hurts us every time we do it, so we have to learn and realize that it just cannot happen. Teams are too good and the points are too valuable for us,” said Bergeron. “You never want to do that, but at the same time maybe it was something that happened because it was a terrible start, and to not respond when they scored the goals. Maybe that’s what happened yesterday.

“As much as you don’t want it to happen, maybe we thought it was going to be an easier game than it actually was against them.”

On the one hand, it’s somewhat shocking to hear that admission from a player that’s always played with full work ethic and an effort level that’s never been questioned. But Bergeron was also a minus-3 in the 4-0 loss and was every bit as guilty as everybody else up and down the roster for the team’s most pathetic loss of the season at a time when results are all that matter.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, though, because the lack of urgency on the bench is mirrored by the lack of urgency upstairs in the Bruins management office right now. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney told the Boston Globe last week that he’s considering a move with the head coach along with a number of other things to spark a team treading water, but it doesn’t feel like a major move is on the horizon with this Bruins team.

Trade talks are still in the formative, discussion stages as GMs like Joe Sakic and John Chayka are overvaluing their players looking for a king’s ransom for guys like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. While Claude Julien should be under the microscope with a team sleepwalking its way through perhaps a third season in a row without the playoffs, it also doesn’t feel like the Bruins are going to pull the trigger on that move until the offseason at the earliest.

This humble hockey writer still insists that this playoff-caliber Bruins team plays at times like a one that needs a swift kick in the backside. Perhaps Julien isn’t up for it after 10 long, successful years of battles with the same core group.   

So, what is there to do then besides make cosmetic moves like shipping underperforming Anton Khudobin down to Providence, or rearrange the deck chairs on a third and fourth line that it’s difficult to tell apart on most days in Boston?

If the Bruins front office wants to truly get to the bottom of their team’s lack of urgency on the ice, perhaps a look in the mirror might be in order. Because that same lack of urgency is playing out with a management group that’s watching their team sink into the Atlantic Division muck right now and seems gun-shy on making a move that could rattle cages.

“Right now where we are in the standings, we’ve got a lot of games to play but we’re still in a playoff spot,” said Julien. “We try and play with the expectations that we have, and that’s to do the best with what we’ve got. We’ve got a lot of new faces and we’re trying to build with what we’ve got here moving forward.”

Certainly nobody is talking about trading away their blue chip prospects like Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy, but there are veteran players on Boston’s current roster that aren’t cut out for battling into the postseason with a young team. It’s plain to see when a middling hockey team can’t find the inspiration to go out and take care of business against a bad Islanders group on a sleepy Monday afternoon just a month after they made the same mistake against the same team on home ice.

The Bruins showed in a five-game stretch leading up to the Islanders debacle that they should be held to a higher standard - that of a team that should qualify for the postseason. But one question arose again and again watching the poorest of poor efforts play out on Monday afternoon: why should the Bruins players show any feet-in-the-fire urgency on the ice when it doesn’t feel like there’s much feet-in-the-fire urgency from upper management to improve the flailing hockey club?

Until that organizational dynamic changes, it’s difficult to see things getting much better, or worse, for a Bruins team that looks destined for the mediocre middle once again this season.