Haggerty: Bruins pass first test but more to come

994341.jpg

Haggerty: Bruins pass first test but more to come

BUFFALO One season ago the Bruins were reeling after staggering to a 3-7 start. The notion that it would be a disappointing season was already planted deep within the Black and Gold psyche.

The Bruins organization was determined not to hit the repeat button this season with a solid opening number that's made even more important because of the abbreviated 48-game regular season.

Teams like the Bruins needed to stockpile points in the early portion of the schedule in order to survive. Later in the season -- like when there's 17 games in the month of March -- points could come at a premium.

The Bruins accomplished their training camp mission on Sunday night when they capped off their first 10-game segment of the schedule by upping their record to 8-1-1 with a solid 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. The win avenged Bostons only regulation loss of the season two weeks ago, and unveiled a team thats consistently put their best foot forward since Garry Bettman and Jeremy Jacobs yelled Game On! back in January.

That means the Bruins have amassed 17 points through the first 10 games of the season this year after it took them 16 games and more than a months worth of hockey games to get there last season. Missing out on only three of your first 20 points is the ideal way for any hockey club to start the season if getting into playoff pole position is the point.

We just need to keep playing the way were playing, said Patrice Bergeron, who slipped in the third period game-winner on Sunday night against the Sabres. Character has been a big part of it for us. We havent had our best games every time, but weve found ways to battle back and get the lead.

Montreal was a good example of that. We had a bad start and found a way to get the win in the third. But in the same time we cant be satisfied and we have to realize we need a full 60-minute effort because were playing some really good teams right now. In this shortened season we know that every game is important.

Sunday was a good sign for the Bruins, who have worked through their first few moments of adversity over the last couple of weeks. Injuries finally started to hit in their first game with the Sabres as a couple of players were knocked out for a few games. But Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille and Brad Marchand all returned this weekend in Buffalo giving the Black and Gold their full complement of players once again.

Whats the scary part for the rest of the NHL when considering Bostons start?

The Bruins arent even playing at close to their full capacity right now despite sitting atop the Northeast Division after their first few divisional battles got underway over the last two weeks.

Tyler Seguin has only two goals (one empty-netter) in 10 games played thus far this season, and seemed to be regressing to some of his earlier season bad habits against the Sabres.

The Bruins power play is 28th in the NHL with a 10.3 percent success rate and nearly cost Boston the game on Sunday before they came raring back in the third while snapping an 0-for-17 streak with Bergerons PP strike.

But the Bruins started the season with nearly the same team they ended last year with, and players like David Krejci have jumped out to ideal starts after keeping themselves ready playing over in Europe. Thats been a key while getting top production out of players like Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand (who has a team-leading six goals scored despite missing one game with an upper body injury) that worked diligently to catch up over the last month after idling during the four-month lockout.

But the Bruins are also just middle-of-the-pack in the NHL right now while averaging only 2.7 goals per game, and theyve been much better than over the last couple of seasons once things click in offensively.

While the aforementioned offense might not be rolling on all cylinders quite yet and their performance both five-on-five and on the power play would indicate that the Bs are still winning games in the third period when their depth and effort finally overwhelm opponents.

It is meaningful in the situation where the front part of our schedule is extremely light as compared to the back end of it, said Claude Julien. We just added another game to the back end with the Tampa game that was cancelled yesterday, so it was important to get off to a good start.

The way the schedule was made were going to be behind in games played by the end of this month. It is important to stay in the playoff pack and thats what were doing right now.

Rather than simply staying in the pack the Bruins are at the top of the Eastern Conference along with the New Jersey Devils, and in a prime spot while playoff teams from last year like the Flyers, Capitals and Panthers are outside of the top-eight teams looking on with envy.

There are still close to three months of NHL regular season remaining and the toughest part of the grinding year still remains for the Black and Gold. But theyve passed the first test -- about 20 percent of their season is now done -- and they did it with nearly perfect marks.

Khudobin simply ‘has got to be better’ for Bruins

Khudobin simply ‘has got to be better’ for Bruins

BOSTON – There wasn’t much for Anton Khudobin to say after it was all over on Thursday night. 

The B’s backup netminder allowed four goals on 22 shots while looking like he was fighting the puck all night. It was one of the big reasons behind a tired-looking 4-2 loss to the lowly Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden. 

The loss dropped Khudobin to 1-4-0 on the season and puts him at a 3.02 goals-against average and .888 save percentage this season. Three of the four goals beat Khudobin despite him getting a pretty good look at them. The ultimate game-winner in the second period from John Mitchell just beat him cleanly on the short side. 

Matt Duchene beat Khudobin from the slot on a play that was a bad defense/bad goaltending combo platter to start the game and MacKinnon ripped a shorthanded bid past the Bruins netminder to put Boston in a hole against a woeful Colorado team. 

Afterward, Khudobin didn’t have much to say, with just one good performance among five games played for the Black and Gold this season. 

“Four goals is too much. That’s it,” said a to-the-point Khudobin, who was then asked how he felt headed into the game. “I don’t know; too much energy…yeah, too much. I don’t know. I just had a lot of energy and I think it just didn’t work out my way.”

Khudobin didn’t really expand on why he had too much energy, but perhaps it’s because the compacted schedule has really curtailed the team’s ability to hold team practices on a regular basis. Or maybe he was just disappointed it took him a week to get back between the pipes after playing his best game of the season against the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Either way Claude Julien said that the Bruins needed better goaltending on a night where they weren’t at their sharpest physically or mentally, and Khudobin clearly wasn’t up to the challenge this time around. 

“We needed some saves tonight and we didn’t get them. He’s got to be better. A lot of things here that we can be better at and take responsibility [for],” said Julien. “But at the same time, you got to move on here. To me it’s one of those nights that had we been smarter from the get go, and we would have had a chance. Now we’ve got to move forward.”

Clearly, the Bruins have no choice but to move on with a busy schedule that doesn’t let up anytime soon, but one of the lessons learned from Thursday night is that the Bruins need to get better backup goaltending from a collective crew (Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban included) that’s won just once in eight games behind Tuukka Rask this season. 

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

BOSTON – The Bruins simply weren’t ready to play on Thursday night when the puck was dropped against the Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden. 

They fell down quickly by a 2-0 score, had a couple of completely inept power plays in the first period that sucked all the game’s momentum away from them and received some subpar goaltending from Anton Khudobin on the way to a 4-2 loss to the lowly Avs. About the only B’s person above reproach in this one was David Pastrnak after scoring a pair of goals in the second period to get Boston back into the game, but it all fell short in a very frustrating, lackadaisical loss to a Western Conference team that isn’t very good. 

MORE: 

Needless to say B’s coach Claude Julien wasn’t too happy after a loss where the Bruins might have had more success with a smarter approach to holding the puck. 

“There were a lot of problematic things [in the loss]. No doubt that the power play could have helped us in the first period, and failed to do that. They’ve got to be better,” said Julien. “We needed some saves tonight, and we didn’t get them. [Anton Khudobin] has got to be better. 

“A lot of things here that we can be better at, and take responsibility [for]. But at the same time, you got to move on here.  It’s one of those nights that had we been smarter from the get go, we would have had a chance.”

Clearly it was about a lacking group effort when dissecting the loss, and the minus-3 for David Krejci on Thursday night marked back-to-back negative performances from the playmaking Czech center in big spots. The goaltending was shoddy with Anton Khudobin allowing four goals on 22 shots for Colorado, and unable to make plays on a couple of Colorado shots from outside the painted area that built up the Avs lead in the first place. 

But it was also very much about the inability of the Bruins to generate consistent offense outside of David Pastrnak’s offensive burst in the second period, and the complete breakdown of the Boston power play in the opening 20 minutes. The Bruins struggled to enter the zone in their first PP possession of the game, and then allowed a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal after Torey Krug futilely dove at the blue line to try and keep the puck in the offensive zone. 

The Krug misplay at the offensive blue line gave MacKinnon a clear path the net, and he buried a wrist shot past Khudobin to get the one-sided loss rolling. Beyond the costly mistakes that ended up in the back of the net, the Bruins looked sloppy and slow-reacting in their breakouts and more than willing to settle for outside perimeter shots.

That doesn’t exactly make for a winning combo even when it comes against a flawed, underachieving team like Colorado, and especially when it comes less than 24 hours after a hard-fought road game in Washington DC. 

“I think we were still sleeping there early in the game and they were able to capitalize on their opportunities. We couldn’t claw our way back,” said Brad Marchand, who picked up an assist on David Pastrnak’s second goal of the night on a perfect dish for the one-timer. “I think it was definitely a mental [block]. You’re able to battle through that physical fatigue. It was more the mental mistakes and not being prepared right off the hop of the start of the game. Again, that’s kind of where we lost it.”

The sleepwalking Bruins lost Thursday night’s valuable two points as soon as the opening puck was dropped against the Avalanche, of course, and the Bruins never got out of lollygag mode at a time when intensity should have been automatic.