Haggerty: Looks like 'malaise' is perfect word for B's

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Haggerty: Looks like 'malaise' is perfect word for B's

BOSTON -- Three days ago Peter Chiarelli openly wondered if malaise was too strong a word to describe what his team was currently battling in the wake of Stanley Cup greatness.

After watching the Bruins drop a 2-1 game to the hated Habs at TD Garden Thursday night, lowering them to 3-6 on the season and dead last in the Eastern Conference standings, Chiarelli might want to rethink his assessment.

The Bruins reached some of their modest objectives for the game by scoring first for the first time in seven games, and they actually scored a power-play goal despite not having any player with a Black and Gold sweater actually touch the puck.

But the Bruins once again looked like a team shooting pucks at a net front shrink-wrapped in plastic wrap, and fell asleep for an entire period after a nice start had bought them a rare lead in the first month of the season.

Its something that we are working on addressing daily, said goaltender Tim Thomas. We realize we need to start putting wins in the win column. Were going to try our best to make that happen.

So whats it like going from NHL penthouse last June to Eastern Conference outhouse after the first month of the new season? For Claude Julien, its akin to thumbing the pages of a Stephen King novel, or waking up in a cold sweat after an evening being chased around the ice by Dave Semenko.

I dont know if I imagined any of this stuff right now. Id probably get nightmares thinking about how were playing right now more than anything else, said the embattled Bs coach, who is running out of answers with a team alternating between white-knuckle frustration and nonchalance. Its more about our team right now. I dont care where we are in the standings. What I care about is how we play, and right now, were not playing at all to the level we should be.

Much could be made of a poorly executed Adam McQuaid pass in the third period that was intercepted and turned into the game-winning strike by Tomas Plekanec after McQuaid blocked the Montreal centers first shot.

But its difficult and patently unfair -- to pin the loss on a defenseman making his return to the lineup after missing two weeks with a headneck injury. The evenings defeat and the month-long funk arent about a couple of individual mistakes here or there that are killing the team.

Its about so many other things that speak to a team-wide plague affecting many different players and areas at once, and a team that badly needs some kind of rallying point to rally around during a downbeat season.

It was about a second period where the Bruins were outshot by an 18-9 margin and looked like a hockey club that wanted it a lot less than their fellow Les Habitants cellar dwellers in the Northeast Division. It's about a Bruins power play strategythat's again shooting blanks, and managed only a feeblethree shots on Carey Price in six different changes with the man advantage.

It was about a Bs team that continues to struggle finishing off offensive plays, and ranks 20th in the NHL averaging 2.22 goals per game.

Its about a fresh-legged Bruins team thats managed to lose two out of three games to opponents on the second night of back-to-back games, and is frittering away a distinct early season home-ice advantage by dropping five out of their first seven games on the TD Garden ice.

Its about a team that seems to have splintered a little bit without an experienced, steady voice of experience in Mark Recchi, who seemed able to consistently rally his teammates together during times of strife.

Its about a desperation play by Raphael Diaz diving across the Montreal crease to smother a Patrice Bergeron scoring attempt on a wide-open net and displaying the kind of lunatic-fringe urgency the Bruins havent had enough of in the first nine games.

There are players getting there on an occasional basis, but the Bruins arent good enough to win if they dont have nearly all their players skating with the same passion, purpose and energy.

Some of the Bruins assumed that the sight of the CH jerseys invading their home ice would snap them out of their seasonal funk.

But that didnt quite work, either, once the Bs entered the second-period slumber party and started sleeping the game away against an opponent that should have been wracked with fatigue.

The Bruins seem to be done denying theres a problem, and thats a good first step. Instead theyre intent on fixing thing that have broken down inside their dressing room, and finding a way to marry together their physical execution and mental focus into full 60-minute efforts.

Individually, David Krejci is a team-worst minus-5 on the season and looks completely lost between passive invisibility and forcing things way too much in a futile attempt to get the feel back into his playmaking game. Nathan Horton was once again an invisible man where he was a Game 7 hero just a few months ago.

So many Bs players look nothing like their Stanley Cup selves.

Right now its about finding answers and not getting frustrated or down on ourselves. Were character guys in here and we need to show it, said Bergeron, who was credited with the only goal of the game for the Bruins. We need to find a way. Were obviously not happy or satisfied.

Being in last place isnt something we would have expected at all. Weve done it ourselves. We cant put the blame on anything but ourselves, and now weve just got to do the work to get back and find our game. It starts in the room and talking about it. We need to find ways to be more prepared and realize who were up against. We cant say that its a long year. We need to turn this around if we dont want to get behind the eight ball.

Chiarelli said that one Stanley Cup-winning team told him their particular hangover lasted for an excruciating 20 games, but the Bruins might not have that kind of slack this season. Already the Bruins stand a full 12 points behind the Eastern Conference leaders in Pittsburgh, and the season hasnt even moved into the second month of play.

The bad news: things become extremely road-game heavy in the second half of the year.

Perhaps the reeling Bruins need to pull a move like Montreals decision to jettison assistant coach Perry Pearn that sparked a two-game winning streak this week. Or perhaps some of Chiarellis inquisitive trade phone calls to opposing GMs will yield some kind of skill forward that can help an offensively challenged bunch and finish off some of Tyler Seguins setups.

With each passing game that the Bruins dont get the results, the goals, and anything remotely resembling last years bunch of Cup winners, the odds of permanent alterations to the teams fabric become more of a certainty -- no matter how reluctant everyone is to mess with a proven winner.

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

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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. 

Bruins center Acciari’s status uncertain after leaving with apparent leg injury

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Bruins center Acciari’s status uncertain after leaving with apparent leg injury

BOSTON – There were no updates following the preseason loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night, but fourth-line center candidate Noel Acciari had to leave in the third period with what appeared to be a leg injury. 

The Rhode Island native appeared to be favoring his right leg after getting tangled up in front of the benches just a couple of minutes into the third period, crawled toward the bench and then headed back to the B’s dressing room for repairs.

Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco didn’t have any update in the moments directly after the 5-1 preseason loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

“Noel did leave the game. I’m not sure what his status is, or what the injury was. I haven’t been told,” Sacco said. Acciari finished with five hits and a blocked shot in 10:35 of ice time vs. Detroit. “I’ll have to check with medical and see where we’re at.”

The hope is that the injury isn’t a serious one after Acciari looked strong and heavy playing an energy role down the middle last season for the Bruins in the final weeks of the regular season. He teamed with Justin Hickman and Anton Blidh to play a gritty, energy line on Wednesday night, and they were largely effective for the Black and Gold while some of the other bigger name players struggled.

A potential injury to Acciari, however, does leave the door open for Dominic Moore to really put an iron-fisted grip on the fourth-line center spot after it appeared there would be a big surplus of centers at the start of camp.