Haggerty: It's been a hard-knock life without Chara

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Haggerty: It's been a hard-knock life without Chara

OTTAWA So maybe it wont be so easy without the NHLs toughest defenseman.

The Bruins did their level best to play their same hard, defensive style without 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara over the last two games. But its been more difficult than originally anticipated for a team whose bedrock has always been structure and defense.

The Bruins surrendered a gaudy total of 90 shots in deceivingly solid scoreboard wins over the Kings and Senators, and got progressively worse when it came to protecting the areas immediately in front of the net. Coach Claude Julien flatly admitted the Bruins were outplayed by the Senators despite escaping with a 5-2 victory.

That meant both the players and the coaching staff werent fully satisfied despite a pair of wins in back-to-back games, and that needs to change above and beyond all else. The key for the coaching staff: Convince the Bruins their defensive woes in the last few games can be traced to simply not paying enough attention to detail rather than missing some unique personnel.

We need to be better and cant allow that many shots while relying on our goalies to carry us, said Patrice Bergeron. Its been like that for the last three games. We need to tighten things up. We need to especially pay attention to the neutral zone and not let guys come with so much speed into our zone.

Theres a not-so-tacit admission that work needs to be done, or the slippage in play will eventually catch up with them. Chara may or may not play against the Philadelphia Flyers as he rehabs from a lower body injury, but the Bruins need to patch up the holes either way. The Bruins captain skated for the second straight day on Thursday afternoon and is making steady progress from his knee issue, but his questionable status means the Bs need to look inward for improvements.

We came out really sloppy against the Senators with a lot of turnovers and we were light on our sticks, and they were just out-battling us, said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. We picked it up a bit and played a so-so game, but overall they were a better team.

We need to be more focused in our defensive zone positionally, we need to battle harder and we need to make sure we win pucks in those gray areas.

The Bruins were rescued by the goaltending excellence of Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas in those two lackluster efforts as they stopped 88 out of the 90 shots tossed at them. So the leagues best goaltending tandem both statistically and anecdotally has masked some of the current deficiencies. That isnt likely to happen Saturday afternoon against the Flyers, who are averaging an NHL-best 3.66 goals per game and have the kind of firepower that could expose a weakened Bs defensive crew.

The Flyers -- who regained the Eastern Conference lead by moving past the Bruins with a victory over the Canadiens Thursday night -- are missing Claude Giroux and Chris Pronger, both of whom have concussions. But they still have Jaromir Jagr, James van Riemsdyk, Danny Briere and Kimmo Timonen, among others, and can make a team pay for defensive gaffes and neutral-zone indifference.

That sets the stage for both teams and their attempts to make a statement in the second meeting of the season after the Flyers crashed the banner-raising party on opening night in Boston.

Its gonna be a big game, admitted Bergeron. Were aware of the standings and we know its going to be tough.

The Senators were no offensive slouches, with the 10th-best goals-per-game average in the NHL, but the Kings sit dead last in offensive production with a team featuring some talented offensive performers. So Boston survived despite not putting forth its best brand of defense, and the shots-allowed totals need to come back down to a respectable level Saturday against the leagues iron.

If not, those holes and wrinkles in their defensive game will become full-blown issues when the Flyers crank up their speed and skill game in front of their home crowd.

That isnt very difficult to imagine, given some of the Boston low points in the FlyersBruins rivalry over the last few seasons, and given the uphill battle the Bs face if Chara is once again watching from the press box.

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

It’s no secret Bruins fans are getting fed up with a hockey team in decline, one that’s missed the playoffs each of the last two years. Now there are numbers to prove it.

Channel Media and Market Research, Inc. came out with its annual New England Sports survey,  tabulating responses from over 14,600 polled, and, according to the numbers, the Bruins are dropping in popularity, fan support and faith in the current management group.

The B’s are holding somewhat steady with 16 percent of voters listing them as their “favorite sports team” behind the Patriots (46 percent) and Red Sox (29 percent) while ahead of the Celtics and Revolution. Claude Julien also ranked ahead of John Farrell among the big four teams in the “coaches/manages most admired” category.

But after sitting at a relative high of ranking at 27 percent for “ownership performance” in 2014 -- they year after their trip to the Cup Finals against the Blackhawks -- the Bruins now rank dead last in that category at 2 percent, behind the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and even the Revolution. Ouch, babe.

Also sitting at a lowly 2 percent is Bruins president Cam Neely in the “leadership performance” category. In "management performance," Neely has dropped from a solid 49 percent in 2014 to just 16 percent in this summer’s survey.

So B’s fans are clearly upset with a team that traded away Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk, Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, and has featured a decimated defense corps for each of the last two seasons. But do the B’s fans think that things are getting any better with prospects coming down the pipeline?

Not really.

In the “which team has done the best job making its product better.” category, the Patriots (35 percent) and Red Sox (31 percent) were resting at the top, with the Celtics (27 percent) a respectable third. The Bruins limped in at just 4 percent with a fan base that very clearly sees that, on paper, this upcoming season’s club doesn’t appear to be much better than last year's.

On top of that, only 13 percent of those surveyed believe the Bruins have gotten better over the last year, and 52 percent believe they’ve just gotten worse. A lowly 3 percent of those surveyed think the Bruins have the best chance of the five teams to bring a world championship back to Boston; the Patriots (79 percent), Red Sox (11 percent) and Celtics (5 percent) all ranked higher.

Finally, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Hayes were at the top of the list of the Boston athletes “who did not meet expectations” last season. None of that is a surprise, given the state of Boston’s defense along with Hayes’ subpar season.

The good news for the Bruins: They still have a passionate fan base. But they need to start reversing course immediately before they do lasting damage to the B’s brand.

Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

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Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading with the Olympics coming to a close . . .
 
-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kirk Luedeke sorts through the aftermath for the Bruins after losing out on Jimmy Vesey

-- Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland gave an interview where he said the Red Wings aren’t Stanley Cup contenders this season. 

-- Related to Holland’s comments, some of the media in Detroit aren’t taking the dose of reality all that well

-- It’s a big season for New Jersey Devils forward Kyle Palmieri, who will be starring for Team USA on the World Cup team. 

 -- PHT writer Cam Tucker says the Buffalo Sabres still have a strong group of forwards even without Jimmy Vesey.

-- Jamie Benn is giving everything to his Dallas Stars team, and that means that the World Cup of Hockey is taking a backseat
 
-- The Colorado Avalanche are nearing the end of their head coaching search as they look for their replacement for Patrick Roy.
 
-- For something completely different: NBC is making the argument that millenials watched the Olympics, but just not on the traditional formats