Haggerty: Bruins offense at a loss without Horton, Peverley

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Haggerty: Bruins offense at a loss without Horton, Peverley

ST. PAUL, MN It was probably inevitable the Bruins would experience the kind of frustrated outburst that Milan Lucic put on display at the end of Bostons 2-0 shutout loss to the Minnesota Wild.

Lucic had previously lifted a shot from the bottom of the right face-off dot that seemed destined to hit the back of the net midway through the third period. It would have been a pivotal goal in cutting Minnesotas lead to a single goal, but instead Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom flashed to the post and gloved one of his 48 saves on the day. He had stoned a Daniel Paille breakaway and an Andrew Ference one-timer on the power play earlier in the loss, but that show-stopping number was the exclamation point.

Lucic simply looked up to the rafters and then tomahawked his stick down to the ice in a fit of pique.

But the Bs power forward wasnt done with his stick-swinging rampage by a long shot.

When it was clear the Bruins were getting shut out for the fourth time since losing Nathan Horton little more than a month ago, Lucic let it all out. The Bs power forward skated back to the Boston bench in the closing seconds of Sunday afternoons game and enacted the hockey version of going postal.

Lucic wildly swung his stick twice at the front of the bench as he skated off and then slammed it again twice inside the bench area for good measure. The blade of his stick snapped off from the force of the violent impact, and Lucic followed by disgustedly tossing the shattered shaft onto the ice as the third period buzzer sounded.

The Bruins were focusing on the positive post-game and attempting to talk about encouraging signs in the first and third period.

But nobody is going to buy that when one of their most influential players is clearly pissed off with the teams recent lackluster results.

Were struggling to make offense happen. Once we got over the hump and get some of those early goals youll see the confidence come back, said Claude Julien. Its taking it one step at a time right now. Frustration is something that can be dragged on for a long time if you let it.

Its like we told the guys we can be bitter or better, so lets work on getting better. So were going to work on that for the next couple of days.

For the Bruins its as much about simple player injuries as much as its about offensive ineptitude or an acute ability to finish off plays.

The numbers for the Bruins before and after the mild concussion suffered by Horton from a Tom Sestito head shot are stark and hard to ignore.

The Bruins were shut out only twice in their first 46 games of the year with Horton, and averaged a robust 3.7 goals per game while racking up 31 wins. In the last 11 games since Horton went down the Bruins have been shut out four times, their points per game have been halved to 1.8 goals per game and theyve only managed four wins.

Thats not even counting the compounded issue with the loss of Rich Peverley this week to an MCL sprain in his knee.

Citing injuries as a reason for losses is akin to excuse-making in the world of the NHL, but facts are facts: the Bruins are scuffling offensively without two of their top three right wings and its entirely understandable. Hortons big power forward frame is missing from its spot camped directly in front of the net.

The Bruins are getting little traffic generated around the cage, and that is one of Hortons specialties.

We got some shots once again, but I dont know how many second or third opportunities we had tonight. Goalies are good these days, and you need second or third chances to beat them, said Shawn Thornton. We dont want to make excuses, but at the same time Horton and Peverley are two pretty good hockey players. Youre obviously going to miss them.

But its also a chance for other guys such as our line to play a few more minutes and step up in that situation. Obviously were not doing a good enough job because were not winning games.

A gaudy total of 48 shots on net is nice against Niklas Backstrom, but it was far from an uncomfortable day between the pipes for a Minnesota goaltender riding a five-game losing streak. Combine that with the natural forward line chemistry thats been ripped apart with both players missing, and its clear why the Bruins offense has gone into hibernation.

Thats not expected to get any better against a defense-minded hockey team in St. Louis coming up next on the Bs road-heavy schedule.

It does have an effect. The injuries have disrupted our lines and our chemistry with each other. Weve had to move guys around and thats been a challenge, said Julien. You still have to overcome those things. Its not an excuse. Its reality. But were still a better team than the one thats been shut out lately.

The Bruins are still scouring for answers on the outside with Peter Chiarelli burning up the phone lines looking for healthy, impactful bodies. But its looking more and more as if the answers will need to come from inside the Bs dressing room with only complementary pieces expected to arrive via trades over the next week leading up to the deadline.

Peter Chiarelli has been adamant that Horton will return at some point this season, and everyone around the organization has to hope that its sooner rather than later. That hope is joined by the equal concern that Horton can avoid being gun shy despite his second significant concussion in an eight month span with the action expected to get nastier as the postseason nears.

The Bruins are finding out that life without Horton and Peverley isnt going to be easy. Theyve also got a thoroughly fractured Lucic stick to show as proof the frustration is growing with each passing offensive downturn.

OFFSEASON

Boston Celtics officially announce five signings

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Boston Celtics officially announce five signings

The Boston Celtics announced Wednesday that they have signed free agent guard/forward Gerald Green, re-signed center Tyler Zeller and signed 2016 NBA draft picks forward Jaylen Brown, guard Demetrius Jackson and forward Ben Bentil.

More to come...

OFFSEASON

Six of the NBA's best offseason moves

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Six of the NBA's best offseason moves

BOSTON – At this point in the summer, all of the heavy lifting that NBA teams do when it comes to reshaping their roster is done now.

The stars you see now are the stars you’ll likely see when training camp begins in a few weeks (I know, crazy right?).

While every team will vow that they had a great summer and made lots of moves that will benefit them, we all know better.

The list of summer winners is not a particularly long list.

Here’s a look at the six offseason moves that should go far in helping their respective teams achieve noticeable growth from a year ago.

6. Dwyane Wade, Chicago

Few anticipated Wade would actually call the Miami Heat’s bluff, which as it turned out wasn’t a bluff at all, and take his talents elsewhere. He signed with his hometown Chicago Bulls after the Heat refused to give him parachute-like contract akin to what the Los Angeles Lakers did for Kobe Bryant. Wade’s arrival doesn’t catapult the Bulls to elite status and truth be told doesn’t assure they’ll be a playoff club, either. But it does provide them with a big-time scorer, an under-rated defender and just as significant, more talent after trading away Derrick Rose to New York. But the concerns with Wade – his health – are no different than they were with Rose. He played in 74 games last season, the most the 34-year-old guard has appeared in since 2011. Having set just about every franchise record of significance for the Heat, it’ll be different seeing him in a Bulls uniform. But considering he never was the highest paid player on the Heat during his 13 seasons, one can understand why he walked away to sign a two-year, $47.5 million contract with the Bulls. The Bulls were on the playoff bubble before Wade's arrival. With him, their chances improve but not by much.

5. Evan Turner, Portland Trail Blazers

Turner was among the NBA’s top sixth men a year ago in Boston, the kind of play that he was able to parlay into a four-year, $70 million contract. The Celtics held out slim hope of re-signing him, and Turner acknowledged he would be willing to leave some money on the table in order to return to the Celtics. But the Blazers made him a top priority with the kind of contract offer that was too good to pass up. He provides another ball-handler and solid defender who will be a great fit inside the locker room. But with him being most effective with the ball in his hands and not a very good 3-point shooter, it’ll be interesting to see just how much Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum play off the ball this season. Don’t be surprised if Turner winds up being a key reserve, similar to the role he played so well in Boston. The Blazers have enough talent to get back to the postseason, but the addition of Turner enhances their chances of getting past the first round.

4. Harrison Barnes, Dallas Mavericks

The addition of Kevin Durant to Golden State sealed Barnes’ departure from the Bay Area. But no tears need to be shed for this 24-year-old who wound up signing a four-year, $94 million deal with the Mavericks. Barnes has played his entire NBA career up to this point in the shadow of older, more established, all-star caliber players. That’s not an issue anymore. He’s going to Dallas as the first option not named Dirk Nowitizki, a role the Mavs envisioned would be manned by Chandler Parsons, who despite being injury-riddled most of his time in Dallas, opted out of the final year of his contract to become a free agent. Parsons then signed a max deal with the Memphis Grizzlies worth $98 million over four years. Barnes had his struggles in the playoffs in June for sure, but he has shown lots of signs of being a player on the verge of breaking out if given a higher profile role with added responsibility. He has four years under his belt, and his scoring average has increased each season and is a career 37.6 percent 3-point shooter. And the 6-foot-7 forward has shown increased versatility, evident by him playing small forward 87 percent of the time when he was a rookie, to more even split this past season when he played more at power forward (55 percent) than small forward (44 percent). The Warriors played him on a few occasions (1 percent) at center. Being able to hold his own at multiple positions makes him a great fit for head coach Rick Carlisle. This was a likely lottery team if they didn't fill the void left by Parson's departure. Now, they're likely to be where they were last season - one of a handful of teams fighting for one of the last remaining playoff slots.

3. Serge Ibaka, Orlando

There were higher profile trades this summer, but this one may wind up being one of the most impactful. The Magic have been acquiring young talent for years but not showing much cohesiveness or improvement. They needed to add a talented veteran with legit leadership qualities. Ibaka is that guy. He made a name for himself as an athletic, shot-blocking center in Oklahoma City, quickly climbing the rungs of elite NBA defenders. He has ranked among the league’s top-4 in total blocked shots each of the last six seasons, and led the league in total block shots four times (2010-2014) in that span. And as the game changed, Ibaka expanded his game to beyond the 3-point line. After not taking a single 3-pointer in his first season, Ibaka has ranked among the better 3-point shooting big men in the NBA with career .427 shooting percentage beyond 3-point range. His ability and leadership should give the Magic their best shot in years of getting back to the playoffs.

2. Al Horford, Boston

Horford has been a player on the Celtics’ radar for quite some time. And Horford apparently was starting to at least inquire about possibly playing for Boston during All-Star Weekend. Horford has been one of the game’s better two-way big men who can defend both big positions in addition to being a decent defender when switched out on guards. And while he has a nice back-to-the-basket game, Horford expanding his game beyond the 3-point line has allowed him to be an even more impactful player. Adding him does more than just solidify Boston’s spot as a playoff team. He gives them legitimate hope that a trip to the Eastern Conference finals isn’t just a pipe dream; but with a break here and there, it could easily become a reality.

1. Kevin Durant, Golden State

On Tuesday night, Kevin Durant, playing his first game at Golden State’s Oracle Arena since he signed with the Warriors, drained his first three shots, which set the tone for a 50-point Team USA win over China. Durant was far and away the best free agent on the market, ultimately spurning the Thunder (and a handful of other teams including Boston) to join an already star-studded Golden State lineup that includes Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and two-time league MVP Stephen Curry. Without Durant, the Warriors were still going to be among the teams expected to contend for an NBA title. But in adding him, they are the overwhelming favorites even if Cleveland returns its core group that includes LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. There are other moves that might have a greater impact on a team’s overall win total. But Durant moves the needle in a way no other offseason move has. Him joining Golden State puts the Warriors exactly where the other 29 NBA teams want to be: the team everyone is chasing.

Quotes, notes and stars: Ziegler stumbles in Red Sox' 4-3 loss

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Quotes, notes and stars: Ziegler stumbles in Red Sox' 4-3 loss

BOSTON -- Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to the Tigers on Wednesday.

QUOTES

"For maybe the first time when he hasn't put the ball on the ground consistently, that's the one spot that shows up here today.''
-- John Farrell on Brad Ziegler, who gave up the game-winning homer to Miguel Cabrera in the ninth inning.

"Unfortunately, we're one-swing-of-the-bat difference here today.''
-- Farrell

"It wasn't a horrible pitch; it just wasn't a great one either.''
-- Zieger on the pitch to Cabrera.

"Shoot, I've got to be honest. I haven't even looked at the schedule. I know there's 162 [games] on there. That's about all I know.''
-- Dustin Pedroia, when asked about the team's upcoming string of road games.

NOTES

-- The Red Sox dropped to 11-14 against teams from the American League Central.

-- The series sweep was the first of the season suffered by the Red Sox. Every other MLB team had already been swept more than once.

-- Pedroia has reached base safely in 30 straight games. It's the second-longest streak of his career.

-- Xander Bogaerts hit safely in every game on the homestand, batting .447 in that span.

-- Seven of Sandy Leon's 10 doubles this season have come in day games.

-- Aaron Hill collected his first extra-base hit (double) as a member of the Red Sox.

-- Victor Martinez reached base in all five plate appearances, becoming the first Tiger to do so at Fenway since Pudge Rodriguez in 2008.

-- The Tigers are 7-2 in their last nine Fenway games.

-- Opposing hitters had been just 1-for-22 against Brad Ziegler as a member of the Red Sox before Cabrera's homer.

STARS
 

1) Miguel Cabrera -- He was 3-for-4 with an intentional walk, including the game-winning homer in the top of the ninth.

2) Victor Martinez -- He remains one of the game's best pure hitters, which he demonstrated with four hits and two RBI.

3) Michael Fulmer -- He continued his Rookie of the Year case with 7 2/3 strong innings, allowing three runs on seven hits.