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.

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN -- For those excited about the idea of an intense, hard-hitting David Backes in a Bruins uniform for the next five years, you have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to partially thank.

Backes, 32, didn’t know either of them all that well prior to this summer, aside from his experiences on ice against them. But Bergeron and Marchand called Backes multiple times while recruiting him to Boston, and it was a major factor in the former Blues captain signing a five-year, $30 million deal with the B's.

“Being an outsider, we need to have a little bit of confession here that Marchand is the kind of guy that gets under everybody’s skin. I was no different,” said the 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes, who has 206 goals and 460 points in 727 career NHL games, all with St. Louis. “But then talking to him a little bit in the interview process prior to July 1, I hung up the phone and had to take a deep breath and say to myself, ‘That little disturber, he’s actually a pretty good guy.’ Those guys end up being the best teammates.

“A guy like Bergeron, when you play against him [he's] always in the right spot, and is never making mistakes. Those types of guys, again, are guys you want on your team, and guys you want to go to war with. They’re All-World players, Bergeron is an All-World player. But he’s also a down-to-earth guy that puts his work boots on, takes his lunch pail and plays his butt off. He’s nice to the young kids, and he’s nurturing in helping them come along. I think you’ve seen in the NHL that you need a few guys on entry-level deals, or a few guys to outperform their contracts, in order to have success in the salary-cap era. That nurturing and mentorship can really foster those kinds of performances.”

While Backes went on to mention Zdeno Chara as another highly respected, formidable opponent with whom he’ll now share a dressing room, it was interesting to note that players who currently have letters on their sweaters, like Chara and David Krejci, didn’t play a part in the recruiting process. Instead it was the next captain of the team (Bergeron) and a player (Marchand) currently in the middle of negotiations entering the last year of his contract.

“I talked to both Bergeron and Marchand twice before July 1," said Backes. "Just the way that they spoke about their team mentality, and teaming up together and sharing the load of hard minutes that need to be played, and also sharing the load of the offensive necessities that a team has . . . those things just rang true to my beliefs of a team.

“You’re all equals whether you’re the top-paid guy, or the top-minute guy, or the low-minute guy, or the guy that’s playing every other game because you’re the healthy scratch in the other games.

“We all needed to be treated equal, and do whatever we can to support the next guy. When the next guy has success, we have to be just as happy as if we scored the goal. That’s the type of thing where, when you get that from the full 20 guys on the ice, it’s so tough to be beat. Those are the teams that win championships.”

It will be interesting to see just how much involvement Backes has with the Bergeron and Marchand combination. He could very easily be a right-wing fit with those two dynamic forwards next season, or he could be a third-line center behind Bergeron and Krejci and give the Bruins elite depth down the middle of the ice.

True to his team-oriented nature, Backes said he’ll be happy to play at either position and do whatever Claude Julien feels is best.

Backes introduces Bruins fans to his 'Athletes for Animals' charity

Backes introduces Bruins fans to his 'Athletes for Animals' charity

JAMAICA PLAIN -- David Backes probably could have opted to have his introductory press conference inside the Bruins dressing room at TD Garden, or maybe even in some finished part of the team's new practice facility in Brighton, which is set to open a couple of months from now.

Instead, the new Bruins forward met face-to-face with the media for the first time while taking a tour of the MSPCA and, in the process, introducing Bruins fans to his “Athletes for Animals” charity, a foundation that promotes rescuing -- and protecting the welfare of -- homeless pets nationwide.

Backes took pictures with a pit bull named Greta that’s been at the MSPCA Adoption Center for the last seven months looking for a “forever home”.

And as he spoke, it became abundantly clear that this is what the 32-year-old former St. Louis Blues captain is all about.

“[Taking a tour of the facility] gives you a warm feeling inside, and makes you feel like you’re already a part of the city while helping give some attention to the great work that they’re doing,” said Backes, the owner of four dogs (Maverick, Rosey, Marty, Bebe) and two cats (Sunny, Poly), who is house-hunting in Boston this week with his wife and 13-month-old daughter.

“Hopefully this will be just the beginning of our connecting with the community, and helping serve the people that are great fans of the Bruins and that will be watching us every night. [Hopefully] they’re watching us go on deep playoff runs year after year.”

Backes’ efforts with rescue animals gained national notoriety when he took time to help with the stray dog situation in Sochi, Russia during the last Winter Olympics. But the roots of his “Athletes for Animals” charity goes back to his college days at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

“The full story is that in college we wanted an animal or two, but it just wasn’t responsible because we were renting and the landlords didn’t approve," he said "We just didn’t really have the time or resources to support them, so we volunteered at the local shelter for the three years I was in school.

“When my wife [Kelly] and I moved to St. Louis, we wanted to connect with the community, be a part and use our voice to influence social change to do our part making the world a little bit of a better place. So we said ‘Why not connect with the animal welfare rescue community?’

“We absolutely love doing it: Walking dogs, scooping litter boxes and cleaning kennels. Let’s use our voice to kick this off and see what we can do, and it really just snowballed from that to then trying to tie other guys into it. It’s not limited to the animal stuff, but the animals that don’t have a voice, and the kids that don’t have a voice, really tug at our heart strings. We want to help them with this blessing of a great voice we’ve been given as professional athletes, and to really use that to give them some help.”

For these reasons alone, Backes is a great fit in Boston. The Bruins donate heavily to the MSPCA and were one of the first NHL organizations to come up with the Pucks ‘N Pups calendar, which each year features Bruins players and their dogs, or strays from the MSPCA, to raise money for the animal welfare organization.

To learn more about Backes’ organization, “Athletes for Animals,” visit http://athletesforanimals.org .