Haggerty: It's becoming clear B's still paying Cup price


Haggerty: It's becoming clear B's still paying Cup price

PITTSBURGH The price for winning a Stanley Cup isnt just limited to that particular NHL season.

Sure, the Bruins dropped their blood, sweat and tears into the 2010-11 bucket and managed to come away hoisting the Cup triumphantly over their head in June.

But the Bruins are paying the piper this season, and those payments just keep on coming. The Bs started the year with a 3-7 record in their first 10 games that everybody attributed as a quick Stanley Cup hangover after they dominated during the months of November and December.

But it appears the Bruins have been the midst of another Cup hangover since January, and this one hasnt been nearly as merciful as that short 10-game burst at the seasons outset. If October was the immediate nausea and violent illness following an all-night bender, then the Bruins are now fighting through a foggy-headed hangover funk thats been lingering since January.

The Bs are 12-14-2 in their last 28 games after dropping a 5-2 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins that would have registered as a technical knockout if it was scored as a boxing match.

But not because the Bruins were outclassed or out-hustled. Its because the rolling Penguins landed so many devastating blows against a reeling Black and Gold hockey club used to doling out the big bad punishment.

With the situation that we had with a short bench down to three lines and five defensemen, I think our guys battled hard, said Claude Julien. With the way we played this afternoon Im not going to criticize my team. We showed a lot of guts with keeping the pace when we were down by three goals.

We had a great second period and got a couple goals back, but not enough in the end to get over the hump. There were some goals that werent very good in the first period that we wish we could have back.

It was Adam McQuaid that skated away crumpled up in pain just four shifts into the game after going toe-to-toe with James Neal in the corner. On the very same shift Neal knocked Zdeno Chara out of the middle of the net after the McQuaid crash while screening Tim Thomas for a Matti Niskanen power play goal.

It was indicative of the emotion and energy the Penguins were whipping out while winning their ninth straight game.

Meanwhile the Bruins continue to pay for their healthy run through last years playoffs with a barrage of injuries. The Black and Gold could have as many six starters missing from their Opening Night lineup due to injury when they travel to play the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.

The Bruins got one healthy body back with Andrew Ference returning to the lineup after missing five games, but they also lost three more to injury with McQuaid, Max Sauve and Patrice Bergeron all going down during the game. Boston can survive without McQuaid and Sauve, but any serious injury to No. 37 would be crushing blow to a team already absorbing body shots from all directions this season.

Its very unfortunate when the bench is short, but you have to play without guys. Thats when you have to play smart with short shifts and keep up the tempo of the game, said Chara. I thought we did that as the game was going on. Its tough when youre behind early in the game and youre trying to catch up.

It seems as if the Bruins have been catching up for large portions of this season rather than being the one chased.

Perhaps there is no greater poster boy for the Bruins paying the Stanley Cup price than Tim Thomas.

The 37-year-old Bruins goaltender is 9-8 with a .899 save percentage and 2.83 goals against average since skipping the President Obama visit at the White House, and the political punch lines and Obama barbs keep coming his way as hes struggled since that fateful decision.

Most around the Bruins doubt it has anything to do with political stances or Facebook posts, however.

Its got much more to do with a goalie turning 38 years old before the playoffs that also played 82 games last season en route to the Stanley Cup.

This season Thomas was dominant when the team enjoyed a home-heavy portion of the schedule during the first half, but hes crashed and burned as the Bs second-half schedule has grown dense with a high volume of games and extended road trips.

The Tuukka Rask injury was the crushing blow to Bostons goaltending strategy, and only now will Thomas get some rest in mid-March after hes already worn down his batteries with nine straight appearances. Thomas fatigue was punctuated with a weak five-hole goal allowed to James Neal at the end of the first period that featured little of Thomas famous pluck and battle.

Its not an indictment of Bostons toughness, will or desire to win because theyve already proven themselves Cup-worthy in all those areas.

But there is only so much possible gas in the tank when a hockey club has been given only 11 weeks of rest and recovery sandwiched between 165 NHL hockey games and counting.

It may be that the mind and heart are willing for the Black and Gold this time around, but the body is not. It happens to the best of us.

Witness Bergeron taking a Matt Niskanen shot off his left leg during a second period penalty kill in Sundays loss. It was clear the blocked shot hurt Bostons invaluable center and Bergeron immediately retreated to the runway to walk off the searing pain.

Bergeron returned to the bench and attempted to play, but the pain was again far too great.

Bergeron tried again at the start of the third period and even jumped out for one very gingerly-moving shift before heading back to the bench. The center bowed his head in obvious pain, and both Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin patted Bergerons shoulder and head in support of their respected leader trying to gut it out.

But that was it for Bostons spiritual leader as he limped back to the dressing room with each member of his team tapping his shoulder on the way by them. Bergerons night was done and so was Bostons effectively as a visibly gassed Chara and Milan Lucic attempted to rally the Bs in the third period to little avail.

The spirit of Bostons players is more than willing, but the bodies are simply breaking down.

Theres really only two ways to look at injuries. You can start feeling sorry for yourself as a group or you can do something about it," said Marty Turco. "Guys step up when they get more minutes and the leaders and best players take the reins and have everybody follow suit. Often you just have to play a better team game. I dont think this team is where it can be.

Its a tough league and every night is brutal unless you can be thinking and be confident. Thats no different. But what is different is that this team can be a great team when they play as a tight group. I know they feel invincible when that happens, so hopefully well see that again soon.

There has been way too much fatigue and injury chatter surrounding a hockey club that bullies opponents with brute strength and impressive depth when all is going right. Now a long hockey season has sapped their mighty strength and taken a heaping chunk out of their overwhelming depth.

The strength may return next month when the playoffs start, but does anybody truly believe the Bruins depth of last season will be in fine working order during the postseason.

Does anybody truly think Nathan Horton is going to be a Game 7 hero again during this seasons playoffs when he hasnt been seen on the ice since suffering a concussion back on Jan. 22?

Is anybody really banking on Rich Peverley attacking opponents with tenacious speed like hes in mid-season form when he hasnt even started skating nearly a month after suffering a sprained knee against the Montreal Canadiens?

There are so many questions and uncertainties surrounding the Bruins this season. Many of those questions can be traced back to the heavy ransom paid last spring when Boston joyously raised the Cup.

Its a price anybody around the Bruins organization would gladly pay again, but its one that might curtail any hopes of a long playoff run this spring.

Theres a reason no NHL team has won consecutive Stanley Cup since the Detroit Red Wings 13 years ago, and the Bruins are becoming all too familiar with the reality of it all this season.

Both Millers missing from Bruins practice, but trending toward return

Both Millers missing from Bruins practice, but trending toward return

BRIGHTON, Mass – While both Kevan Miller and Colin Miller were missing from Bruins practice on Saturday morning, both injured Bruins defensemen could be rejoining the team soon.

Colin Miller skated on his own prior to Saturday’s team practice at Warrior Ice Arena for the second or third time since suffering a lower body injury in the win over the St. Louis Blues. Claude Julien said his presence on the ice was proof that the puck-moving defenseman is “definitely on the mend”, and could be nearing a return to practice soon with Sunday marking the sixth straight game that he’ll have missed.

Kevan Miller is out with a concussion suffered last weekend in the win over the Philadelphia Flyers, and the B’s current three-game losing streak has coincided with his absence from the lineup.

Julien said Miller has actually been away from the team for the last couple of days while dealing with a virus, and that his recovery from the concussion symptoms was good prior to being knocked down by the illness.

“Kevan was actually feeling really well and then he got hit by a virus that’s kept him in bed for the last two days,” said Julien. “It’s nothing to do with his original injury. There was a possibility he could have been ready very soon, but that’s set him back a bit.”

Both are obviously out for Sunday’s matinee against the Penguins, but a return to practice at some point next week seems like a good bet for both players. Here are the line combos and defense pairings from Saturday’s practice with the Bruins focusing on getting a good result in Pittsburgh with the hockey club on a “mom’s trip” with 22 of the players’ mothers traveling with the team to and from the game:












Fast-break points aren't necessarily a good thing for Celtics

Fast-break points aren't necessarily a good thing for Celtics

BOSTON – Conventional NBA wisdom tells you that getting out to score in transition is a good thing, usually serving as easy points scored, which is what every team wants, right?
But bundles of transition points have been nothing but trouble for the Celtics this season.
They are coming off a game against the New York Knicks in which they scored 22 fast-break points, which was their second-best showing this season. But the final score, a 117-106 loss, wasn’t all that unusual from what has happened this season when their transition game has generated a decent amount of scoring.
Boston has a 2-6 record this season when they score 16 or more fast-break points. On the nights when Boston’s fast-break offense generates 10 or fewer points?
They’re 11-5.
While there are several possible reasons why this is, here’s what you have to remember.
The Celtics are a ball-movement, 3-point shooting team.
Often that means they’ll pass up potential shots in transition, to instead work the ball around from one side of the floor to the other, until they get what they deem is the best shot to take (usually it’s a lightly contested to wide open 3-pointer).
The Celtics average 329.6 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.8). Not surprisingly, that has led to them ranking among the league’s leaders in assists (24.9, third in the NBA).
And that has led to Boston being ranked among the top-3 in several other key passing statistics, such as secondary assists (7.1, 2nd in the NBA); potential assists (49.5, 2nd); and assists points created (60.8, 3rd);
Here are a few more stats to crunch on, courtesy of CSN Associate Producer Andy Levine.
PAINT BY NUMBERS: When the Celtics score 40 percent or less of their points in the paint, they are 19-5 this season. When Boston gets 40 percent or more of its points in the paint, they are just 7-11.
BROWN IN THE FOURTH: Jaylen Brown has been among the better rookies this season, especially in the fourth quarter. Among rookies who played in at least 20 games in the fourth quarter, Brown is second in fourth quarter shooting at 54.9 percent. With those same standards, he’s sixth in shooting 3’s in the fourth at 38.5 percent.
CROWDER BOUNCES BACK: The past four games has seemingly brought out the best in Crowder. In that span, he has averaged 18.5 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 57 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3-point range. Crowder’s 3-point shooting of late has elevated him to seventh in the league while connecting on 42.5 percent of his 3-point attempts (minimum 150 attempts).

OUCH! It has not been a smooth start for Evan Turner with his new team, the Portland Trail Blazers. This season, Turner’s plus/minus is -234, which is the fourth-worst plus/minus in the NBA.