Haggerty: Frustrated Bruins need to regroup


Haggerty: Frustrated Bruins need to regroup

WASHINGTON, DC Judging by the long faces, glassy eyes and finger-pointing taking place in the Boston Bruins dressing room following another formulaic playoff performance against the Washington Capitals, the Bs let a game they really wanted slip away.
Boston fired away 45 shots on net and worked to get a handful of chances close to the net, but didnt work nearly hard enough around the cage in a 2-1 loss to the surprisingly willing Capitals at the Verizon Center.
The Caps blocked 12 shots in the third period and showed the kind of blood-and-guts willingness that it takes to win playoff hockey games. The Bruins seemed to recline right back into some of the relaxed habits that have been dogging them since the start of the series.
Clearly there other forces against them as caterwauling Caps owner Ted Leonsis and Washingtons phalanx of fans, coaches, management and players curried a little favor with the league and Washington managed a 3-1 advantage in power plays along with a game-winning PP goal from Alex Semin.
But the bottom line was another postseason game went by with offensive no-shows from David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand. Rich Peverley is the only member of the top six forward fraternity thats made an impact offensively, and both of his goals have come off broken plays.
Krejci stood by his locker with watery eyes and a downcast head, and uttered the words frustration and panic over and over again as he searched for answers. The center said he felt good, but missed connecting on every pass coming his way near the front of the net. Krejci finished with zero shots on net despite a healthy amount of ice time, and seemed stuck in a pit of despair following the game.
I know hes a good goaltender, but we need to relax and do what we do during the regular season, said David Krejci. When we have chances we need to bury them rather than panic. Maybe we panicked too much, I guess? I don't know. I think we had so many chances we could have won the game. Thats the story of the game.
Seguin had chances and six shots on net to go along with it, but his ability to finish off scoring plays which has come and gone during the season has deserted him at the most important moments.
Marchand is a mere shadow of the rabble-rousing offensive playmaker from the regular season, and has been a big disappointment during the first round playoff series. By the end of the game it appeared the Marchand swagger was pretty close to gone, and he was simply firing the puck into Braden Holtbys chest as soon as it was on his stick in the offensive zone.
But perhaps worst of all was Bs goalie Tim Thomas rather pointedly throwing his forwards under the bus. The Bruins goaltender was asked what the Bruins problem was as he saw it, and the 37-year-old gave his position-playing teammates the kind of swift kick in the pants that he usually saves for Obamas health care plan.
"We had a lot of shots. But high-quality scoring chances? We didnt have many of those. You need people in front screening and tipping and that seems to be our problem in this series, said Thomas. We're not (getting bodies in front) enough. We did it in Game 3, but we havent done it consistently in the series."
Thomas was right, of course, but normally the goaltender is a little more circumspect when it comes to calling out his teammates for failing to get the job done. After all, Thomas was cleanly beaten by Semins stand-still wrist rocket from the left face-off dot during a second period power play. So Thomas wasnt better than his 22-year-old counterpart for the Capitals either.
But rather than blame each other for shortcomings in the series, the Bruins need to regroup at home while making some fine-tuning tweaks. Perhaps its time for Claude Julien to go back to the lines the Bruins played with for most of the season rather than forcing together forwards that havent really played with each other all season.
Its not secret that Marchand and Bergeron play better together after two years of success together, and thats what they should return to.
Maybe its time for Jordan Caron to enter into the series and utilize his 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame to carve out some space in front of the net for rebounds and tipped pucks. Caron is the closest thing they have to a Poor Mans Nathan Horton, and that seems to be what the Bruins are missing at the moment.
The Bruins remain hopeful they can get on the same page, and find whatever inspired them to actually look like the Stanley Cup champs in Game 3.
Weve been through so many situations throughout these last couple of years, said Johnny Boychuk. We know how to handle it. Being at 2-2 we have the group of guys in here that can battle through anything to get wins.
Its a best of three games series now with two of those games potentially set at TD Garden, and the Bruins know what they must do to win.
Its just a matter now of getting out there and actually doing it now that a great chance to control the series has gone by the boards.

With injury in his past, Malcolm Subban is looking toward future


With injury in his past, Malcolm Subban is looking toward future

BOSTON – It’s not really ever a banner day for any red-blooded, red-light hating goalie when he surrenders four goals in a game.

But perhaps that bottom line is softened a little bit considering when it’s also the first game of the preseason. It may also be drastically mitigated by the fact, in this case, that it was the first time Malcolm Subban guarded the space between the pipes since taking a puck to the throat that fractured his larynx last February.

That traumatic injury left Subban unable to speak for days and gasping for air while being rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery.

It was a tiny victory simply for the Bruins goalie prospect to be back on the ice at all and a much bigger one once Subban had made 31 saves while largely under siege in a 5-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden on Wednesday night.

The 22-year-old admitted a little rush in net while the Red Wings were buzzing all around him for 35 shots on net through his two periods of work, but there was also happiness at simply being to back and building up for another season in the Bruins organization.

“It was great to finally get back out. Obviously, [I was] really rusty. To be honest, I felt – not so much the goals even, but just shots in general, especially in the first, obviously nerves had a little bit to do with it,” said Subban, who was 14-8-5 with a .911 save percentage and 2.46 goals-against average last season in Providence. “But it was the first time in a long time I could say that I felt not up to speed. I feel like usually I’m overplaying stuff, too fast. But, I felt today like practice is a lot different than a game.

“In the first, I thought I was a little behind the play. That starts to open up holes like my post coverage and stuff. A little rusty there, especially on the third goal, I’ve got to clean that stuff up. Other than that, I thought I played pretty well in terms of straight shots. We practice all that stuff. I’ve just got to keep working on that end. Hopefully, I can move forward and build on that. I think it’s a great game to build off, for sure, for myself and the team.”

The goals allowed showed some on defense, but also some of the rust in their goalie: Subban lost sight of the puck behind the net on the second goal and Steve Ott was able to fire a quick shot past him on the short side before he could recover his bearings. 

The third goal was also a post coverage issue with Luke Glendening scoring on a late-reacting Subban, which is usually one of his real strengths. So, there is work to be done, but Subban also shut down a number of breakaways in the second period behind a leaky defense and stopped over 30 pucks before he gave way to young goalie Dan Vladar.

That’s considered more than an honest night’s work in the first preseason appearance for any goaltender, and surely for one playing his first game in seven months.  

“I think it was [a good outing for Subban]. He faced some quality scoring chances out there, and the ones that went in probably he’d like to have back, you know,” said Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco. “But overall, I think when you look at his overall performance for the two periods he played pretty solid for us. He made some big saves, some timely saves and moved well in there. I think for Malcolm, you know, despite the score, I think he had a good night.”

Perhaps most encouraging: the middle Subban brother made a key save at the end of the first period with a puck off his helmet after Detroit had scored twice in a span of 19 seconds.

The stop with Subban’s head gear was probably the best sign of the night that he’s over last year’s traumatic injury and there isn’t going to be any shell-shocked goaltender situation with him.

So, did the injury cross his mind even once during his 40 minutes of work?

“To be honest, no. I owe a lot of credit to my players and these guys on the team in practice and stuff. I really haven’t had to worry about [taking another puck to the throat], getting hit,” said Subban, who now wears a neck guard after eschewing that particular piece of equipment prior to the injury. You’ve got some pretty good shooters in here; pretty accurate shooters. But, yeah, to be honest, I never really thought of [the fractured larynx], it never came across my mind.”

One thing that’s definitely been on Subban’s mind in camp is his contract situation and knowing full well he’s in the last season of his entry-level deal with the Bruins as a former first-round pick. He now has both Anton Khudobin and Tuukka Rask in front of him in the NHL and he’s looking at a fourth straight season in the AHL with the P-Bruins.

It might have been a different story for the talented goalie prospect if he’d finished last season in the same hot streak he was enjoying at the time of his injury. Perhaps he’d be the guy prepping to be Rask’s understudy this season. Instead, the ill-timed larynx injury pushed the Bruins to opt for an established backup in Khudobin and sign him to a two-year deal that could conceivably lock Subban in Providence for a couple more seasons.

So, now Subban is playing for his future, whether it’s with the Bruins, or with another team looking for a young No. 1 goaltending prospect just now entering his prime after refining his technique and going through some character-building adversity.

“I had a hard summer of workouts and skating, so I feel good. I’m not going to hold myself short. I understand that this is my contract year and the last year of my contract, so I’ve got to have a good year regardless of where I am. I’ve just got to play awesome,” said Subban. “Obviously you want to sign again, and you want to be a part of the organization. You want to be a huge part of it and a valued asset.

“So, what I’m looking forward to proving right now is that the last three years helped me, and that I’ve improved since my first year, and that I want to be here [in Boston].”

It will certainly be interesting to see what happens with Subban within the B’s organization over the next season.

The Bruins regime that initially drafted him 24th overall back in 2012 is now gone. Subban still has value to an NHL team, particularly a Canadian one, scouring the market for a blue-chip goalie prospect. The organization is also going to be forced to expose a quality goaltender or two in the Las Vegas franchise expansion draft after this season. That could mean a new work address, or a new spot opened up within the B’s goalie depth chart, for Subban.

All of these could be possibilities for Subban, but it all starts with him pouring everything he’s learned over the past three years and dominating the AHL before he pushes for his first extended look at the highest level of hockey. 

'Big, mean, physical back' Blount wins AFC Offensive Player of the Month


'Big, mean, physical back' Blount wins AFC Offensive Player of the Month

FOXBORO -- The first three weeks of the season really couldn't have gone any better for LeGarrette Blount. 

He leads the NFL in rushing with 298 yards, and he's scored four times in three games as the Patriots have relied more on the running game in Tom Brady's absence. For his efforts, he's been named the AFC's Offensive Player of the Month. It's the first time he's earned an Offensive Player of the Month award, and it's the first time a Patriots player has been given the honor since Brady won it in September of last year. 

Blount was one of the keys to victory for the Patriots in their Thursday night win over the Texans as he ran for 105 yards and two scores. Patriots coach Bill Belichick lauded Blount for his performance -- especially his performance in the fourth quarter -- in the postgame locker room celebration. With that performance, the Patriots have called more running plays than any other club in the league (108), and Blount leads the NFL in carries with 75, one more than Houston's Lamar Miller. 

Blount is averaging 25 carries per game, which is 9.5 more than his previous career-high, which he recorded back when he was a rookie for the Buccaneers in 2010, and it's 11.2 carries more than his average last year. He could be in line to be a significant part of the game plan yet again during the final game of Brady's suspension Sunday against the Bills.

"Just a big, mean, physical back," Bills coach Rex Ryan said on Wednesday. "That’s how he runs, that’s how he’s always run."