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 looking forward to getting World Cup teammates, coach back

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Bruins looking forward to getting World Cup teammates, coach back

BRIGHTON, Mass. – With the World Cup of Hockey and Team Canada crowned as champions, the final few Bruins players involved in the international hockey tournament will be filtering back into regular training camp.

It was a brilliant tourney for Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, especially while forming the World Cup’s best forward line with Sidney Crosby. Marchand was one of the leading scorers and had the clutch game-winner in the decisive game.

As a line they combined for a ridiculous 25 points in six games and it was Marchand who scored a couple of the biggest goals in the biggest games against Russia and Team Europe.

“They did it all of last season for us, so I’m not shocked. They played well throughout the entire time they played there, so I’m really happy for them,” said Ryan Spooner. “It’s been kind of a weird camp. We’ve been missing a lot of guys, and to get all of those guys back is huge. They’re the leaders of the team, so to get them back is good.

“Marchand around the room is a funny guy, so he’s definitely missed. We miss them all.”

Zdeno Chara was a force for the surprising rag-tag group of players on Team Europe and led them to the best-of-three final series against Team Canada. Now that it’s over, the B’s teammates are looking forward to all three joining fellow World Cup participants Tuukka Rask, David Pastrnak and David Backes at camp probably at some point next week.

“It does [feel like training camp], but it will be nice to get those guys back,” said Adam McQuaid. “They are big parts of this team. We’re looking forward to having those guys back, for sure.”

That also includes getting their coach, Claude Julien, back as well after missing his presence while he served behind the Canadian bench with Mike Babcock and Barry Trotz. He’ll be rejoining the Bruins over the next couple of days, and getting through preseason road games against Detroit and Philadelphia before making some tough decisions on cuts at main training camp.

That’s when things will officially start getting back to normal for a training camp that’s felt like something was a little missing over the first few weeks of getting ready for the season. 

Friday, Sept. 30: It's all Bruins in World Cup final

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Friday, Sept. 30: It's all Bruins in World Cup final

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while taking a nap this afternoon so I can watch the 1:30 am replay of tonight’s Bruins/Red Wings game on the NHL Network.

*Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara scored the goals at the World Cup’s decisive game on Thursday night, and No. 63 got the clutch game-winner late in the third period for Team Canada. Then he watched as linemate Sidney Crosby won the MVP for the tournament in what could be perceived, from a Boston point of view, as a largely Canadian-based hockey media fawning over Sid the Kid once again. Look, he was the tournament’s leading scorer, but last night’s heroics probably should have tipped the scales toward the B’s agitator getting the World Cup hardware.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Halford has Anaheim Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm seeking an eight year deal from his team. That could be another contract negotiation to watch closely if you’re a Bruins fan.

*Zach Werenski, one of the D-men the Bruins were trying to trade up to get two years ago in the first round of the draft, is looking like he might be NHL-ready for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

*Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov is holding out with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and just wants to get paid like the rest of his teammates.

*Marian Hossa says he still wants to play hockey when he’s 42 years old, or close to the age that countrymen Zdeno Chara is right now.

*Here are some preseason college hockey storylines with the world of NCAA hockey about to start up in force.

*A judge has ruled that the family of the late Derek Boogaard may pursue a lawsuit against the NHL over the death of their son.

*For something completely different: “Tex Ryan” takes his jokes to open mic night and I’m fairly this is Toucher and Rich skewering the Buffalo Bills head coach. And rightfully so.