Haggerty: B's fourth line needs to bring more energy

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Haggerty: B's fourth line needs to bring more energy

The barometer for the Bruins, on so many levels, is the energy, effectiveness and wrecking-ball nature of their fourth line.

When things are going well in the land of Black and Gold, Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille are breathing hot fire on the ice, pounding other teams with a relentless, punishing forecheck and reversing the momentum in games when things arent going well.

The fourth line was an unrelenting key to Bostons success last year, and never was that more obvious than Bostons Game 7 triumph over Vancouver. The trio of Thornton, Paille and Campbell set the emotional and physical tone in the first period with shift after shift of tone-setting energy that the more skilled Bs players followed to victory.

Its become a part of Boston sports radio shtick to chide the Bs coaching staff for his fourth-line adoration, but the proof was in the winning last season.

We always use Game 7 of the Finals as an example of their importance, said Claude Julien of his fourth line importance. In the first period they got us going when we put those guys out there, and we hemmed Vancouver in their own end. They did such a great job of forechecking and gave us all kinds of energy.

Thats the kind of role theyve played for us since theyve come together and we need them to continue to do that.

But those energy-altering shifts havent come with the same kind of regularity for the Bruins this season. The Merlot Line has been far from that this season along with the rest of a Bs team finding it difficult to get their motor started. Campbell, Paille and Thornton have accounted for one point in the first eight games, and have a combined for an aggregate minus-10 as a line.

Julien sees a group of skaters that are perhaps a tad too jumpy with their shots in the early going of the season. They need to take a breath, remember their positioning with and without the puck and start creating better scoring chances off the cycle.

The one thing they do so well for us is hold the puck in the offensive zone. It seems like theyre looking to shoot right away when they can hang onto it and make better plays, said Julien. Its about getting back into those good habits and cycling the puck well, and it seemed like last year when they shot the puck there was somebody around the net to jump on the rebound. Right now they just want to throw it right at the net, and thats not always the right choice.

They know they need to be better.

The Bruins simply need them to be better if theyre going to again develop that wave-after-wave attack rolling all four lines that typified their run to the Cup last season. The fourth line isnt going to completely lift the Bruins out of the offensive doldrums that have them scoring almost a full goal less per game than last season through the first few weeks.

But the fourth line can help bring some much-needed energy to once and for all help eradicate the hangover haze thats been hanging over the hockey team in October. Campbell was unceremoniously frank when asked if the fourth line is on the right track eight games into the new season.

Not really. I think we still have some work to do," said Campbell, who is scoreless with 5 shots on net and a minus-3 in eight games "Regardless of whether or not were scoring, its creating chances and having that puck possession time thats important for our line. The goals will come if we get the chances. We put a lot pressure on ourselves as a line, and its important for us to contribute.

When things arent going well you need everybody to step up and contribute. Ill be the first to say that we need more from me. Its a matter of owning the puck and creating chances for ourselves, and being smarter with the puck. Were always going to work hard, but it comes to working smarter to create chances for ourselves.

Judging by Campbells unflinching assessment of himself and the team, the Bs fourth line is acutely aware they need to be better.

Thornton admitted the trio conducted a little meeting amongst themselves prior to Thursday nights game against the Maple Leafs to get on the same page. They knew they needed to be more effective and got back to basics against the Leafs.

Thornton dropped the gloves in two straight games that helped his team tap into the emotional component, and their puck possession has been better in the offensive zone over the last several games. But it takes more than a couple of games to truly change the momentum tide, and they know theyre not there yet.

Thornton knows theres more potential to be mined out of the chemistry between the three forwards, and there have been some promising signs in a win over the Leafs and a near miss against the Sharks.

The last few games I think weve been in their zone a little more, said Thornton. Campbell hit a crossbar and I just nicked the top of Niemis glove. Were right there. It just hasnt expletive gone in. We talked about it a few days ago before the Toronto game, and weve gotten better.

But its obviously not good enough because were a minus-10 or whatever the hell it is. The first couple of games we were trying to get our chemistry back and werent hanging onto the puck as much. We just need to keep doing what makes us successful. We were working hard. Theres no doubt about that. But I think we were just a little too focused on only getting pucks to the net.

The line has fired off 24 shots on net in the first eight games, but its back to basics for the Bs pivotal fourth line.

Its time for Paille, Thornton and Campbell to help spark up the emotional fire thats become such an important part of Bostons success, and once again become the best fourth line in the NHL that they were all of last season. The Bs fourth line created expectations when they provided such a jolt of energy and attitude last season, but theyve embraced that challenge.

Its obvious the Bruins simply arent the same without them.

Krejci, Krug aim to be ready for Bruins opening night

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Krejci, Krug aim to be ready for Bruins opening night

BRIGHTON – Only two Bruins players spoke to the media following the team’s first informal captain’s practice at the new Warrior Ice Arena facility, and it happened to be the two key players coming back from offseason surgery.

Torey Krug had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder shortly after last season was over, and David Krejci had hip surgery to take care of a lower body issue that had bothered him for each of the last two seasons. Both were on the ice on Monday morning along with John-Michael Liles, Adam McQuaid, Frank Vatrano and Noel Acciari, though Krejci hopped off the ice 15 minutes into the session once the skating drills started to ramp up.

Similarly, Krug wasn’t taking any one-timers or winding up for slap shots while working with the puck during drills amidst a six month recovery window that’s expected to carry over into October. Both said that playing on opening night was their goal at this point still weeks ahead of NHL training camp, but a decision should be forthcoming for Krejci when it comes to the World Cup of Hockey. It didn’t sound like the playmaking pivot was going to end up competing for Team Czech Republic in the tournament, but Krejci isn't shutting the door just yet.

“It’s another day closer. I did a little bit more stuff today and I’m obviously already on the ice, so I’m kind of getting there. This injury takes time, but I like where I’m at right now,” said Krejci, who originally hurt the left hip in the final preseason game prior to the 2014-15 seasons. “Every day is a step closer. I’m excited for tomorrow. If you asked me a long time ago [about the World Cup] then I would have said ‘yes’, but right now I just want to get to 100 percent.

“If I’m ready then that would be awesome, but if not then I have to do what I have to do to be 100 percent. I’m in contact with the national team coach, and we talk pretty every week. They’re asking about my updates, so they know what’s going on. I’m sure they have some backup plan if it’s not going to work out. We’ll see what happens.”

It’s not quite as cut-and-dry with Krug, who will start slowly going into training camp while ramping up to being ready as quickly as possible. Similar to Krejci, the shoulder injury was something Krug played with pretty much all of last season while scoring a career-low four goals in 81 games. The 25-year-old D-man wasn’t using the bum right shoulder as an excuse, but said he’s looking forward to feeling good as new again as soon as possible.

“When you miss the playoffs it’s a long summer, but I was very fortunate going through the shoulder surgery that I had a lot of time to recover,” said Krug, who averaged a career-high 21:37 of ice time last season. “Hopefully I’ll be good to go for the first game. I didn’t know what to expect, but from a medical standpoint they tell me that [I’m ahead of schedule]. I’d never been through a surgery or anything like this, but I feel good.

“It’s probably a harder road, but I’m in good hands and they tell me I’m where I’m supposed to be. I’m not even using my shoulder shooting the puck. I’m taking it slow and day-by-day with plenty of time still leading up to camp. It’s probably going to be a play it by ear situation [to start camp]. They said six month, so camp would be about five months. So I doubt I’ll be taking part in the physical aspect of it [to start camp]. We’ll see how it goes.”

The bad news is that Krejci and Krug had to go through surgery at all last spring, but it sounds like both aren’t going to miss much, if any, time at all for the B’s once the regular season winds up. 

Krejci more disappointed in losing Eriksson than missing out on Vesey

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Krejci more disappointed in losing Eriksson than missing out on Vesey

BRIGHTON – The Bruins held their first informal skate at the new Warrior Ice Arena on Monday morning and there were a number of players present that also took part in the Jimmy Vesey recruiting session a few weeks ago.

Both Torey Krug and David Krejci skated on Monday along with John-Michael Liles, Frank Vatrano, Adam McQuaid and Noel Acciari, and those two aforementioned Black and Gold veterans were also part of the recruiting group that met with the former Harvard captain at their new practice facility.

A few days later, Vesey spurned the Bruins to sign with the New York Rangers, and the reactions weren’t all that overheated from the B’s players. Krug played with Vesey on Team USA during the World Championships a little more than a year ago, and didn’t really begrudge the highly sought Hobey Baker Award winner choosing the Blueshirts.

“I’m not going to go into details. He had the right to do what he did, and obviously it was a smart decision to interview with all those teams and figure out the best fit for him,” said Krug. “We wanted to him here, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. Now we move on, and there’s an opportunity for other guys to step in and take that spot. This group moving forward, we’re highly motivated this year.”

Krejci would have been Vesey’s center, as pitched by the Bruins management in the meeting with Vesey, but that wasn’t enough to woo him to play pro hockey in his hometown. Krejci said he was more disappointed losing linemate Loui Eriksson than falling short in the Vesey sweepstakes. The carousel of changing wingers will be moving once again for the B’s pivot.

“I wasn’t really disappointed with that guy. Obviously I’d heard he was a good player, but he has to prove himself on the NHL level. I was more disappointed that we weren’t able to keep Loui. I felt like we had some good chemistry going,” said Krejci, referencing 30-goal scorer Eriksson departing for the Vancouver Canucks and a six-year, $36 million contract. “It was tough to see him go, but I’m getting kind of used to seeing my guys, my favorite guys, going away [like] Milan [Lucic], Nathan [Horton] and [Jarome] Iginla.

“So I’m going to have to play my game, and find chemistry with whoever is going to play on my line. I did meet him, and talked to him a bit. In the summer there aren’t many [hockey] things for people to talk about, so this [Vesey watch] was something for people to talk about. Obviously there was pressure on him, but he brought it on himself, I guess. I feel like he would have been a good fit on our team, but he made the decision he did. I don’t know exactly why he made the decision that he didn’t want to stay [in Boston], but it’s his career and he has all the right to decide where it is he wants to play.”

So Vesey becomes just another Harvard grad headed to New York City to start his career, and the Bruins will likely turn to Vatrano or perhaps rookie playmaker Danton Heinen as left wing candidates alongside Krejci and David Pastrnak after Boston missed out on both Eriksson and Vesey this summer. 

 

Monday, Aug. 29: Jones settles in as ‘the man’ with Sharks

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Monday, Aug. 29: Jones settles in as ‘the man’ with Sharks

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while largely satisfied with the payoff from “The Night of” on HBO. I’m fully satisfied from watching that rather than catching even one minute of the VMAs.

*Martin Jones is still pretty new to all of this as he settles into his role as “the man” between the pipes for the San Jose Sharks.

*Alex Ovechkin is now a married man, apparently.

*A pretty good rundown on a piece about the explosion of statistical analysis in sports where so much of it is simply stating the obvious. I don’t need a bar graph to tell me a player is struggling when I can plainly see it on the ice.

*Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is optimistic that his team can overcome the injury bug to start their season defending their Stanley Cup championship.

*Dallas Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen has had a long offseason to ponder his Game 7 meltdown in the playoffs.

*This Alex Radulov era in Montreal promises to be an interesting one for both the enigmatic, talented Russian and the Habs.

*For something completely different: I’m sure pro wrestling aficionado James Stewart is a little green with envy that my Mr. Fuji tweet made the Washington Post. It was a sad day learning that the Devious One had been elevated up to the big squared circle in the sky.