Haggerty: Bruins offensive outage taking hold

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Haggerty: Bruins offensive outage taking hold

BOSTON -- If Thursday nights game against the Florida Panthers was used as a temperature check for the Bruins as to whether the team is running hot or cold, things are getting a bit chilly on Causeway Street.

The Bruins could do nothing wrong in November and carried that over into the first two games of December, but theyve now put together back-to-back uninspired offensive efforts in a two-game losing streak. The Bruins hit five posts and missed on a number of early chances to put some goals up on the board, and ended up dropping a 2-0 decision to the Panthers behind a 40-save effort from Jose Theodore.

There were excuses if the Bruins wanted to take the out, but every Bs skater admitted they could have been better in some area or department.

In the end we just didnt bear down hard enough to get lucky for those posts to go in, said Dennis Seidenberg, one of five Bruins to hit the pipe in their defeat. So we just have to be a little bit heavier on our sticks and just bury those chances.

Anytime Theodore stands on his head it conjures up images from fruitless playoff experiences against the Montreal Canadiens, but truth be told this new, improved Panthers team reminds of that first scrappy Bruins team under the watch of Claude Julien. Theyre not the most offensively gifted roster particularly after dealing David Booth to the Vancouver Canucks but they play sound defense under new head coach Kevin Dineen and Craig Ramsay, and they play a hard brand of hockey.

So Theodore and a willing, able Panthers defense that packed tightly around the net deserve credit, but this is more about what the Bruins are suddenly not doing again. Theyve scored one goal in the last 120 minutes against the Jets and Panthers, and theyve gone 0-for-7 while losing the hunger to finish around the net.

Weve had a little bit of a power outage here, said Tim Thomas, who made 28 saves in the loss. But thats to be expected when wed been scoring at as good a clip as we had been.

Milan Lucic had a golden scoring chance in the third period all alone in the high slot, but Theodore made the snapping glove save on the shot. Lucic was shaking his head after the game, but it was indicative of the Florida netminder improving from a bevy of rebounds early in the game.

It was definitely a good save by him. Theodore made a lot of good saves today, said Lucic, whose turnover and passive back-checking ending up leading to Tomas Kopeckys game-winning goal for the Panthers in the third period. For us we have to get back that killer instinct. When we get opportunities to make sure we finish them off and bury them.

Bodies arent willing to step in front of the net on long shots from the point, rebounds are bouncing harmlessly away from the net and the Bruins are getting maddeningly passive when they have the choice to attack the net.

We had about 40 shots on net, but I thought we forced a lot of plays where we could have taken it to the net. I dont think our decision-making was the best at times, said Julien. We certainly didnt make it easy for ourselves. We hit four or five posts. You can say what you want about those, but youve got to find ways to bury goals.

I think weve got to do a better job of that. I dont think that were driving to the net as well as we have in the past. Thats kind of slipped in the last little while, so weve got to try and do that a little bit better. We need to get our noses dirty around the net area again.

The concerning part now is that the Bruins suffered their offensive slowdown with Seguin in the lineup. There was an excuse for the Bs to lollygag in Winnipeg on the second night of back-to-back road games with Seguin chewing dip in the press box with the Bruins coaching staff.

But Seguin was back in the lineup and seemingly heavily motivated to respond after getting scratched by the club, but it seemed like the team took an October-style collective snooze against their closest competition in the Eastern Conference. The loss dropped the Bruins to third in the Eastern Conference with the Bs trailing the upstart Florida club by a single point, but still comfortably within the playoff picture.

Its no wonder the results are different now than the Bs 12-0-1 month of November. The Bruins have become comfortable and complacent with their position in the middle of the pack, and the downside of that cycle is approaching. Lucic finished with two shots on net and a minus-2 in the limp offensive performance, and said its time for the team to get back into the winning mindset that carried them for more than a month.

Weve done a pretty good job getting shots and scoring chances. But thats all they are if you dont get results. I think the main thing right now for us is we cant get down on ourselves; we cant get frustrated, said Lucic. We have to pick ourselves back up and start over again. We have to remember what got us those fourteen wins in fifteen games.

Thats what should be our focus right now and not let frustration creep into our game just because weve had trouble these last two games.

Its only a mini-slump after two games for the Bruins, but they learned full well in October that things can get badly out of hand if they dont reverse trends and put a stop to it. Bostons mission, should they choose to accept it, is to right things and generate some breakthrough offense Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Wednesday, Aug. 31: Blake Wheeler named captain of Winnipeg Jets

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Wednesday, Aug. 31: Blake Wheeler named captain of Winnipeg Jets

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while excited for Season 2 of Stranger Things now that it’s official.

*An interesting look at Jack Eichel’s perspective during the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes as it seems like he took the hands off approach toward the end.

* On this date in NHL history a classy, legendary Hall of Famer, was born in late Habs forward Jean Beliveau.

* The USA Today has a list of 10 players that could change the fates of their respective teams this season, and there wasn’t a Bruins player among them.

* Former Bruins winger Blake Wheeler has been named captain of the Winnipeg Jets in a move that makes all the sense in the world. He’s really developed into a terrific player since being traded from Boston.

* PK Subban will visit a Montreal children’s hospital to give an update on his pledge to give a big helping hand.

* Resident NHL cheap shot artist Raffi Torres will be getting a tryout with the Carolina Hurricanes, but he’s one type of player that the league can do without these days.

* The Hockey News lists young center Matthew Barzal as a player that could make or break the season for the Islanders. That’s the same Barzal that the Bruins skipped two years ago to draft Zach Senyshyn in the first round, for those that are keeping score.

* For something completely different: Stranger Things season 2 details? Ummm, yes please.

Countdown to camp: Malcolm Subban

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Countdown to camp: Malcolm Subban

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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: Malcolm Subban.

Things might have been much different for Subban had he avoided the fractured larynx injury last winter, and instead been able to continue building momentum toward winning an NHL job this season as the understudy to Tuukka Rask. Instead, Subban sustained the freak injury that knocked him out for the final months of last season, and now finds himself stuck organizationally after the B’s signed old friend Anton Khudobin to a two-year deal on July 1 to once again work in tandem with Rask. Now it looks like it will be the AHL again for the foreseeable future for Subban.

What happened last year

Subban has shown flashes throughout his young career after the Bruins made him a first-round pick in 2012, and that continued last season prior to the stray puck that hit him in an unprotected part of his throat during pregame warm-ups. The shame of the injury’s timing was that Subban was perhaps playing the best hockey of his career and it finally appeared like he was headed toward the consistency that’s eluded him thus far. Instead the 22-year-old finished last season with a 2.46 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage and didn’t appear on the surface to make much of a progression from his first couple of pro seasons. The injury cost Subban any chance to potentially move into this season as Tuukka Rask’s backup at and really puts a lot of pressure on him to turn the corner this season in the AHL.

Questions to be answered this season

The question still lingers as to whether Subban is an actually NHL goaltender. He still has the potential to be a No. 1 guy as he gains experience and confidence between the pipes. He’s still just 22 with three years of AHL experience and goaltender is a position where it can take longer for the development arc to be completed. But Subban needs to start showing a little bit more dominance in the AHL if he wants to start pushing for looks in the NHL, and clearly needs to be more consistent rather than shining every once in a while with brilliant performances. The talent is clearly there for Subban as a gifted athlete playing goaltender, but it still looks like he’s a late-comer to the goaltending position as he was in his teenage years. Perhaps this is the season where it all comes together for him.

In their own words

“I’ve been hit in the neck before. I have all the gear on now, the protection and stuff. I’ve gotten used to it. Honestly I feel like a tank. I’m not even worried at all about getting hit again. [My approach] is the same as it’s been since I was drafted. I just focus on myself and my game, and that’s all I can really control. My goal is to make the team the same as it is every year, so that’s what I’m trying to do. I just have to play well and give my chance a team to win every night.” –Malcolm Subban talking about his injury and his approach at development camp in July.

 Outlook

We are entering make-or-break territory with Subban and the Bruins as he enters his fourth pro season with the organization with very little discernible progress made over that time period. The injury makes it even more difficult to gauge if he has shown significant signs of development in his time in the AHL and if he’ll be a better goalie than the one that imploded in St. Louis during his NHL debut a couple of years ago. Subban has made strides in his technique and certainly seems to understand the need to gain consistency at this point in his career, but all of this will be happening at the AHL level for the next couple of years barring any injuries to Rask or Khudobin. One has to wonder if Subban is going to end up in another NHL organization via trade given the current goaltending situation in Boston. Subban won’t be getting his NHL shot anytime soon in Boston and he still has work to do before he’s even earned it. With Rask a fixture in Boston and Subban’s lack of clear dominance in the AHL, it makes one wonder why the B’s selected him in the first round back in 2012 when clearly there were bigger organizational needs.  

 

 

Veteran center Dominic Moore among Bruins signings

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Veteran center Dominic Moore among Bruins signings

The Bruins announced some organizational signings and one surprise dip into late summer free agency with a one-year, $900,000 contract for 36-year-old depth center Dominic Moore.

The B’s also announced one year, two-way contracts for forward Brian Ferlin, along with defensemen Chris Casto and Alex Grant, and all three of those players will serve as young, organizational depth players in Providence.

Moore has spent each of the last three seasons with the New York Rangers amid a career 765 NHL games played as a solid face-off and penalty-kill player that has fourth line candidate written all over him.

The Bruins will be former Harvard center Moore’s 10th NHL team. He’s coming off a season where he posted six goals and 15 points in 80 games for the Blueshirts, and has previously played for Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Toronto, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Tampa Bay and San Jose along with the Rangers.

While Moore is a solid candidate for fourth-line duty that will provide leadership, good face-off work, solid and gritty penalty-kill work and all kinds of NHL experience, he is also a 36-year-old on a team that has a ton of center candidates headed into camp. 

Moore’s presence could be problematic if he’s standing in the way of developing young centers Austin Czarnik and Noel Acciari. The expectation is that B’s coach Claude Julien, as he always has in the past with safe veterans like Chris Kelly, will go with a player like Moore over the youngsters if times start getting tough for the Black and Gold.

Ferlin, 24, completed his second professional season with the AHL's Providence Bruins in 2015-16, producing six goals and eight assists for 14 points with 27 penalty minutes and a plus-nine rating in 23 games. He was sidelined for much of last season in Providence by a concussion.

Casto, 24, completed his third full AHL season with Providence in 2015-16, establishing career highs with seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points with 47 penalty minutes in 68 games.

Grant, 27, spent the 2015-16 season with the Arizona Coyotes organization, splitting time between the Coyotes and their AHL affiliate in Springfield. He recorded seven penalty minutes in five games in the NHL, while compiling 11 goals and 31 assists for 42 points with 57 penalty minutes in 69 games in the AHL.