Haggerty: More "weak sauce" from Luongo


Haggerty: More "weak sauce" from Luongo

BOSTON -- Maybe Roberto Luongo should stop wondering why nobody else ever wants to pump his perpetually saggy tires?

The Vancouver Canucks goaltender has once again created a firestorm of criticism by simply doing what everybody predicted Bobby Lou would choose in the first place: taking the easy way out.

No matter what the Vancouver coaching staff posited publicly as the reasoning behind it, Luongo opted out of the difficult challenge facing down his demons against the Bruins at TD Garden.

Its the perfect example of Bobby Lou just being Bobby Lou.

Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault revealed on Friday afternoon Luongo wont be playing against a Bruins team he fell flat on his face against during three Stanley Cup Finals games in Boston last June. In each of the three Vancouver road games where the Bruins outscored the Canucks by an aggregate 17-3 margin, it was Luongo that set the leaky tone for his team.

Luongo was pulled from two of those games, couldnt last even 10 minutes in Vancouvers best chance to wrap things up in Game 6 at TD Garden and created one of the tangible turning points in the seven-game series after memorably criticizing Tim Thomas aggressive goaltending style.

He was arguably the biggest reason his Canucks team ultimately lost the Finals, and he was badly outplayed by his Boston counterpart.

Luongo followed up his severe breach of goaltending brotherhood etiquette by posting a .773 save percentage in those three road games in Boston. For a puck-stopper that always seems to have an excuse at the ready when things go haywire it was just another weak sauce showing at a career-defining moment.

In other words it was Bobby Lou just being Bobby Lou.

For a goaltender in Luongo thats never won anything aside from an Olympic gold medal captured in spite of him rather than because of him thanks to Sidney Crosbys heroics Saturday afternoon was the rare opportunity to right something that went so very wrong last year.

Of course a regular season win wouldnt erase Luongo soiling his Canucks diapers in all three road games during the Finals, but it would have shown that perhaps the losing experience inspired the growth of a little backbone for Bobby Lou. It would have been a good sign that perhaps the Canucks had finally learned that sometimes making a stand is more important in the long view than collecting the two points.

Instead Luongo is hiding behind the coachs decision for Vancouver to go with Marblehead native Cory Schneider, and the excuse du jour is that the Marblehead native will be playing in front of family and friends for the first time in five years at TD Garden.

The only problem: Schneider played in two of the Stanley Cup Finals games in Boston when Luongo was unceremoniously yanked after looking like a goaltender on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

So Schneider has played in front of his local family and friends at the Garden after all.
The NHL is also not Peewee hockey where players get in the starting lineup because their favorite aunt from Moose Jaw made the trip to the game, or because the team is back in somebodys home town for the first time.

Its the highest level of hockey where superstars are supposed to face stiff challenges head on, and where the best of the bunch known when its time to man up in those statement situations.

Luongo is an All-Star goaltender, the highest salaried player on the Canucks aside from the Sedin brothers, and a former captain of his hockey club. He also hadnt played since shutting out the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night, so he was well-rested heading into the Hub showdown.

If the Vancouver netminder insisted on meeting the Bs challenge head on Saturday afternoon, he would be in the Canucks lineup with no questions asked. But he chose to take the cowards route and settle for a baseball cap and his trademark hangdog expression on the visitors bench for Saturday afternoon.

Its as simple as that.

I dont think winning tomorrows game is going to change what happened last year, said Luongo. At the end of the day I would have liked to play, but it doesnt change the outcome of the last year.

At the end of the day youd be playing Saturday afternoon if you really wanted to, Bobby Lou.

Could anybody imagine Tim Thomas passing up the challenge to shut down a team that embarrassed him during the prior seasons playoffs? Thomas would be frothing at the mouth to leap into the breach and get another crack at the team that had mastered him on the leagues greatest stage.

But its pretty apparent Bobby Lou is no Tim Thomas. That was abundantly clear when the Bs goaltender collected all of the hardware at the end of the last season and Luongo was taking a long walk on the Vancouver seawall wondering where it all went so horribly wrong.

In a regular season rematch of Stanley Cup Finals teams after Vancouver finished on the losing end last June, Saturday afternoon was a golden chance for Luongo and Co. to put some shine back in a reputation tarnished during the Finals. Instead Luongos unwillingness to seize control of his own fate intertwined with the Bs buzz saw reveals another wishy-washy decision authored by a seemingly rudderless goaltender.

Or as those outside of Vancouver like to say, Its Bobby Lou just being Bobby Lou.

Haggerty: Bruins continue to stumble against Canadiens at home

Haggerty: Bruins continue to stumble against Canadiens at home

BOSTON -- One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Much like Charlie Brown was never going to actually kick the football before Lucy pulled it away, it feels like the Bruins are never again going to beat the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden. They failed again Saturday night, never holding a lead at any point as they dropped their ninth straight home game to the Habs, 4-2.

Bruins-Canadiens games in Boston have become the hockey version of 'Groundhog Day', as the same patterns emerge over and over again: Montreal's speed forces the Bruins into mistakes with the puck; Habs players draw the B’s into taking bad penalties; Carey Price dominates in goal. It's been that way ever since the last Bruin victory over Montreal at the Garden, on Jan. 12, 2012. To put it perspective, Tim Thomas and Tyler Seguin were still Bruins back then.

Saturday night's loss, though, had a little added twist: The B's second-period woes, such a problem last year, reared its ugly head again.

“[The second period was] terrible, and that’s where it really hurt us," said Claude Julien. "I thought we played well (in the first period) . . . But the second period came back to haunt us. We were flat coming out. We didn’t make good outlet passes, and we spent way too much time in our own end, and because of that, it gave them some momentum. And by the end of it, we cheated ourselves a little bit, and pucks ended up in the back of our net . . .

"[When] you give up four goals to Montreal, and you have Price at the other end, it’s pretty hard to beat that team. So we needed to be better . . . [We] shot ourselves in the foot with some real poor mistakes, and we can’t afford to do that against the Montreal Canadiens."

The Bruins were essentially done for after a couple of very typical Boston-Montreal plays went against them in the middle 20 minutes.

The first was a defensive coverage breakdown in the D-zone that allowed both Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher to operate with time and space. Five B’s players simply watched as Gallagher smoked a one-timer from the outside of the left circle that eluded Anton Khudobin.

Then, later in the period, John-Michael Liles misread a play where he pinched deep in the offensive zone and couldn’t control the puck. As a result, Alexander Radulov worked a 2-on-1 with Phillip Danault to skilled perfection on a typical Habs transition play.

"I think our second period has got to be better overall," said Patrice Bergeron. "We talked about them having a good forecheck . . . [but] we didn’t make the easy plays too many times. When you do that, it creates turnovers and you spend more time in your zone than you’d like to."

From there, it was just more of the same. Playing with the lead, Montreal was able to neutralize Bergeron and Brad Marchand; Bergeron never got a shot on goal. Price came up big when he had to, shutting down a couple of Ryan Spooner chances.

And Bruin weaknesses were exposed, things Julien and the coaching staff may have to address. It looks like it’s time to move on from the Joe Morrow/Torey Krug defense pairing; it's simply not working. (Krug, in particular, was a minus-3 and made mistakes all over the ice.) They also may need to switch things up with the forwards, as they're getting zippo offensively from their second and third lines.

To their credit, the Bruins never packed it in. They hung in and made plays in the third period to keep the game close, right up to the 6-on-3 advantage they had at the end. But there are no consolation prizes or moral victories in the Boston-Montreal rivalry, especially when the Habs have made it so one-sided.

To be a true rivalry, you need equal rivals. And the Bruins, especially at home, aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.

Bruins need to 'find a way to start playing with a lead'

Bruins need to 'find a way to start playing with a lead'

BOSTON -- There’s only so long that a team can hope to thrive, or even survive, in the NHL if they’re constantly chasing the game on the scoreboard, and chasing the puck after digging themselves a hole. The Bruins have been that team in the first couple of weeks during the regular season, and made it five times in five games that they’ve given up the game’s first goal in an eventual 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden.

It’s a pattern that is long past getting old to Bruins head coach Claude Julien, who can’t seem to play the front-runner this season despite three comebacks that have allowed for a 3-2-0 record overall this season.

“I hope it’s not a habit. It’s certainly not what we’re looking for, but there’s no doubt. I think it’s pretty obvious that with the amount of games we’ve played, five games, we haven’t scored first,” said Julien. “We talked about that this morning, trying to get that first goal, and it hasn’t happened yet.”

The start to the game wasn’t really the problem on Saturday night as it’s been a couple of times this season. Instead the Bruins enjoyed a handful of quality scoring chances in the opening 20 minutes against the Habs, but couldn’t come through and finish off those plays when it might have meant an early lead.

Instead it lead to what Julien termed a “terrible” second period that was flat, full of mistakes and ended with the B’s trailing Montreal by a couple of goals. The Bruins scratched and clawed their way to making it a one-goal game in the third period, but that was as close as the Black and Gold would get in losing their ninth straight home game to the arch-rival Canadiens.

“It’s kind of been a story about how things are going for us this far, we’ve got to find a way to start playing with a lead. If you don’t capitalize on your chances, you see what happens when you come out [flat] in the second period,” said Torey Krug, who finished a game-worst minus-3 in the loss for the Bruins. “We had another poor second period and you know it’s kind of… you got to make sure that we put our hand on that and it doesn’t become a thing for the team this year. You see that when you don’t capitalize on chances early, that’s what’s going to happen.”

It’s been a positive development that the Bruins have shown the willingness and backbone to fight back into games after early deficits, and they showed that quality once again on Saturday night by scoring a couple of goals in the third period to keep things close. But the Bruins would be best served if they can start lighting the lamp a little earlier in these games, and see how the other half lives by playing with a comfortable lead every once in a while.