Haggerty: Bruins have fallen, and they can't get up


Haggerty: Bruins have fallen, and they can't get up

SUNRISE, FL As one might expect after another discouraging loss, it wasnt a pretty postgame picture in the Bruins' dressing room Thursday night at the BankAtlantic Center.

The Bruins once again buckled under the first signs of adversity. A bad cross-checking call against Shawn Thornton led to a Florida power-play goal, and then the roof caved in. The Bs sound defense and elite goaltending, once their bedrock, again deserted them at the worst time.

The final score was 6-2 in favor of the Panthers, who have quietly crept to within two points of the Bs for the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference. And the game was just as hopelessly one-sided as the scoreboard suggested.

Tim Thomas let in four goals on the first 17 shots he faced, and was betrayed by a defense that couldnt get out of its own way against an onslaught of Florida attackers.
Zdeno Chara snapped far too many breakout passes straight down the middle of the ice that turned into offensive chances for Florida.
There were far too many breakdowns from old reliables like Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference.

All the Bs defensemen look exhausted, injured or perhaps a little bit of both. That, and the inability to stick to the team's once-airtight defensive system, has led to 36 goals allowed in nine games during the month of March, including 12 in back-to-back losses in the state of Florida (6-1 to the Lightning on Tuesday, 6-2 to the Panthers on Thursday).

The Bruins look nothing like a Claude Julien-coached team, and thats a very bad thing indeed.

It was basically a whole team collapse tonight, said Julien in a sentence that could sum up the last two months. We do have some guys that are tired, and we have some guys that arent playing up to par. Weve got lots of games and we have to fight our way through it. You cant throw your arms up in the air. Youve got to fight through it.

So now the Bruins are one point ahead of the hard-charging Ottawa Senators in the division, two points ahead of the Panthers, and theyve won exactly five regulation games since the beginning of February.

The Bruins emotion, so necessary to their success, is gone. Theyve become the hunted rather than the hunter in the physicality portion of the game, and they look like a team thats been skating Herbies (named in honor of coach Herb Brooks for the suicide skating sprints he put the 1980 US Miracle Team through in practice) for days.

In many ways Thomas has become the fall guy for the Bruins nosedive, based on his decision to skip the White House visit, but the problems -- both with Thomas himself and the team -- had already begun prior to Jan. 23.
Those problems have come to a head during this winless road trip, and Thomas looked like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders after Thursday's defeat. After yet another horrid outing -- his own, and the team's -- he finally agreed that fatigue was a factor.

It has a lot to do with it . . . yes, said Thomas, who just days ago defiantly insisted that neither he nor his teammates were tired. You can see it in peoples faces.

Thomas has seen a ton of hockey over his 14 years as a professional athlete, and that means hes experienced nearly everything. But the soon-to-be 38-year-old had zero answers on how the Bruins can get out of their 12-16-2 rut of the last 30 games.

Weve done a good job of staying positive and supporting each other, but I dont know what to do. Weve got to figure out something, said Thomas. I dont know if Ive ever been in quite a part of a run like this. Generally you just put it behind you and move on to the next one, but weve done that for a few games in a row. Were stuck in the same place. I dont have any answers.

Chara similarly had no answers and few words. Chara was the captain at the helm when the Bruins hit their high water mark last season in June, and he appears to be the captain on the NHL version of the Titanic this year.

Its tough to describe," he said. "Its tough to find the words for the way were playing. Its everything: offensively and defensively. Were not finding a way to be more creative and effective. The only way we can get out of it is to find the answers in this room and move on to the next one.

We have the tools. We have the talent. We are capable of doing great things. Weve proven it and done it before. Right now we just cant find a way to be effective.

Around the room, the Bruins players dressed quickly and quietly without smiles or conversation. They made no eye contact; indeed, they did little more than study the floor tiles. David Krejci sat in front of his locker stall with his head buried in his hands.

Chara mentioned that the Bruins werent being creative enough when talking about the teams shortcomings, and that spoke to a Bs coaching staff freely admitting they must find a different path to success this time around. Julien said he and his assistants realize the challenge is on them as well as the players to figure something out.

Our team is tired and theyre not playing well, but youve got to fix it somehow said Julien. Theres a lot of thinking to be done. Thats what we do for a living. We have to step up and find a solution as a coaching staff. Thats what we have to do. When you give up 12 goals in two games you need everybody on board.
It better happen quickly, because even the playoffs arent a guarantee if they continue their free-fall.
The Bruins have a chance to use this adversity as fuel to snap them out of their malaise. Or they could become another Stanley Cup champion that fails to make the playoffs the following year.

Nobody knows any more which path the Bruins will eventually, and thats the scary part.

Game notes: Patriots vs. Steelers


Game notes: Patriots vs. Steelers

A quick look at the information you need to know about today's Patriots-Steelers game:

TEAM RECORDS: Patriots 5-1, Steelers 4- 2

GAME TIME: 4:25 p.m. EST


TV ANNOUNCERS: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Tracy Wolfson


NATIONAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Larry Kahn, Mark Carrier and Troy West

LOCAL RADIO NETWORK: Anchored by WBZ-FM (98.5 The Sports Hub)

LOCAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Bob Socci and Scott Zolak


LAST MEETING: Patriots 28, Steelers 21 on Sept. 10, 2015 at Gillette Stadium

* * * *
-- The Patriots are 8-11 against the Steelers in Pittsburgh in their history, but are 4-2 at Heinz Field. Included in those four Heinz Field victories are two in AFC Championship Games (in the 2001 and 2004 seasons).

-- Tom Brady is 8-2 against the Steelers in his career.

-- The last time Brady played the Steelers, in 2015, he set a Patriots franchise record with 19 consecutive pass completions.

-- The Patriots are 108-70 (.607) in road games since 1994, the best record in the NFL over that span. The Steelers (97- 82, .542) are second.

-- The Patriots have yet to throw an interception in 2016, setting a team record for consecutive games without an interception at the start of a season (6). The NFL record for consecutive games at the start of a season without a pick is 9, set by the 1960 Browns. The Patriots' franchise record for overall consecutive games with no interceptions is 8, set in 2010.

* * * *
-- Rob Gronkowski has 67 overall touchdowns and needs one to tie Stanley Morgan (68) for the franchise record.

-- Gronkowski has 66 receiving touchdowns and needs one to tie Morgan (67) for the franchise record.

-- Gronkowski has 22 100-yard receiving games, including two in 2016, and is tied with Jackie Smith for the third-most among all NFL tight ends. The only TEs who have more are Kellen Winslow (24) and Tony Gonzalez (31).

Haggerty: Bruins continue to stumble against Canadiens at home

Haggerty: Bruins continue to stumble against Canadiens at home

BOSTON -- One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Much like Charlie Brown was never going to actually kick the football before Lucy pulled it away, it feels like the Bruins are never again going to beat the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden. They failed again Saturday night, never holding a lead at any point as they dropped their ninth straight home game to the Habs, 4-2.

Bruins-Canadiens games in Boston have become the hockey version of 'Groundhog Day', as the same patterns emerge over and over again: Montreal's speed forces the Bruins into mistakes with the puck; Habs players draw the B’s into taking bad penalties; Carey Price dominates in goal. It's been that way ever since the last Bruin victory over Montreal at the Garden, on Jan. 12, 2012. To put it perspective, Tim Thomas and Tyler Seguin were still Bruins back then.

Saturday night's loss, though, had a little added twist: The B's second-period woes, such a problem last year, reared its ugly head again.

“[The second period was] terrible, and that’s where it really hurt us," said Claude Julien. "I thought we played well (in the first period) . . . But the second period came back to haunt us. We were flat coming out. We didn’t make good outlet passes, and we spent way too much time in our own end, and because of that, it gave them some momentum. And by the end of it, we cheated ourselves a little bit, and pucks ended up in the back of our net . . .

"[When] you give up four goals to Montreal, and you have Price at the other end, it’s pretty hard to beat that team. So we needed to be better . . . [We] shot ourselves in the foot with some real poor mistakes, and we can’t afford to do that against the Montreal Canadiens."

The Bruins were essentially done for after a couple of very typical Boston-Montreal plays went against them in the middle 20 minutes.

The first was a defensive coverage breakdown in the D-zone that allowed both Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher to operate with time and space. Five B’s players simply watched as Gallagher smoked a one-timer from the outside of the left circle that eluded Anton Khudobin.

Then, later in the period, John-Michael Liles misread a play where he pinched deep in the offensive zone and couldn’t control the puck. As a result, Alexander Radulov worked a 2-on-1 with Phillip Danault to skilled perfection on a typical Habs transition play.

"I think our second period has got to be better overall," said Patrice Bergeron. "We talked about them having a good forecheck . . . [but] we didn’t make the easy plays too many times. When you do that, it creates turnovers and you spend more time in your zone than you’d like to."

From there, it was just more of the same. Playing with the lead, Montreal was able to neutralize Bergeron and Brad Marchand; Bergeron never got a shot on goal. Price came up big when he had to, shutting down a couple of Ryan Spooner chances.

And Bruin weaknesses were exposed, things Julien and the coaching staff may have to address. It looks like it’s time to move on from the Joe Morrow/Torey Krug defense pairing; it's simply not working. (Krug, in particular, was a minus-3 and made mistakes all over the ice.) They also may need to switch things up with the forwards, as they're getting zippo offensively from their second and third lines.

To their credit, the Bruins never packed it in. They hung in and made plays in the third period to keep the game close, right up to the 6-on-3 advantage they had at the end. But there are no consolation prizes or moral victories in the Boston-Montreal rivalry, especially when the Habs have made it so one-sided.

To be a true rivalry, you need equal rivals. And the Bruins, especially at home, aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.