Haggerty: No more fooling around for B's offense

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Haggerty: No more fooling around for B's offense

BUFFALO The warning signs have been there for weeks. The Bruins needed to start finding ways to finish off more of their offensive chances before it started resulting in painful losses.

Theyve struggled to bury goals on the power play all season and theyve consistently been smack in the middle of the NHL pack while scoring a slightly unimpressive 2.7 goals per game. Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron have combined for 81 shots on goal in 12 games this season, but have only two goals apiece to show for all of that offensive involvement.

Agitating forward Brad Marchand leads the Bruins with seven goals scored on the season, but nobody else on the roster has more than four goals scored.

That inability to cap off enough of their quality offensive chances finally caught up to them Friday night when they couldnt muster more than a 2-1 lead after thoroughly dominating the Buffalo Sabres for 40 minutes. When they were let up off the mat the desperate Sabres outshot the Bruins by a 10-3 margin in the third period and rifled home three unanswered goals for a 4-2 victory at the First Niagara Center.

The biggest thing for me is that we should have put them away after the second period, said Bruins coach Claude Julien, who watched his team outshoot the Sabres 17-6 in the middle 20 minutes and only get one measly goal on the board. We talked about that: were not burying our chances and eventually its going to catch up. Weve got some goal scorers that have to produce, and when theyre not producing it makes it tough.

When you have the opportunities that we had in the second period, theres no way it should have been a 2-1 hockey game. When you have those great opportunities youve got to find a way to bury them. Then we came out in the third period and forgot to do the work, and we forgot the team that we were playing against was a desperate team. They did what they had to do. We didnt deserve this game.

The pathways of offensive futility were numerous for the Black and Gold: Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron both hits posts in the first period on scoring chances directly in front of the net, Nathan Horton launched a shot directly into Ryan Millers chest after Gregory Campbell had freed him up all alone right down the middle of the slot and Tyler Seguin was robbed by Millers glove hand after he tore into the juicy rebound of a Chris Bourque point shot.

Bourque fanned on a one-timer attempt earlier on a first period power play that eventually netted Dougie Hamiltons first career NHL goal, and Chris Kelly couldnt squeeze off a shot after getting the puck from Rich Peverley right in front of the net. Those were just the best of the best chances because up and down the lineup Bruins forwards had umpteen good chances against a forgiving Buffalo defense.

But none of the big offensive forwards finished with a goal for the Bruins in the game, and more than a few were exhibiting signs of frustration on and off the ice. Their coach didnt believe something in the hockey coachs handbook like arbitrary line changes would make much of a difference in this particular case.

As far as scoring chances go its not so much that our lines arent working, its that were not finishing, said Julien. If you change the lines does that mean somebody is going to start finishing more? Ive lamented that for a while too. When that comes around well be that much better, but until then were going to be facing those tight games.

Some of them are already squeezing their sticks, and we see things in the dressing room where a player keeps looking at his sticks over and over again. Every once in a while you cant let the mental part of the game get to you. When you get a chance you just go out and bury it. Sometimes we get a chance and we think its going to be an easy goal. We just need to get a little harder in that area.

So what to do?

The Bruins can continue to apply pressure on themselves and berate the lack of offensive production while they barely skate by winning tight one-goal games and hoping that more teams cant sting them in the third period like Buffalo has on two different occasions this season.

Or they can just continue to put their head down and work their way out of while maximizing the benefit of an agreeable schedule. Theyre facing teams like the Winnipeg Jets, Florida Panthers and New York Islanders that can be easy marks for them if they can start scoring goals the old fashioned way.

The reality is that the Bruins are riding their first losing streak of the season after dropping a shootout to the Rangers and collapsing against the Sabres in their building as the first game of a five game road trip. Its not the end of the world as much as its a valuable wakeup call.

The Bruins players, particularly the forward group, knows that there is work to be done if they want to reach closer to scoring three goals per game as they had while ranking offensively among the NHLs top five franchises over the last few years.

We always set the bar high for ourselves, but I also think we can definitely be better offensively, said Rich Peverley, who was the only Bruins forward to score against Buffalo on Friday night.

The Bruins will continue their search for offensive answers on Sunday in a Winnipeg arena where they didnt exactly excel last season. Nobody said it would be easy but the Bs should know by now that all of the offensive answers that they seek are currently locked up inside of them.

Bruins having 'very, very productive talks' with D-man Liles

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Bruins having 'very, very productive talks' with D-man Liles

The Bruins still hold high hopes for what free agency might bring them for a defenseman when the market opens Friday at noontime, but it also feels like Bruins GM Don Sweeney is under-promising while hoping to over-deliver. Either that or the Bruins really don’t have many good prospects at significantly improving their blue line group headed into next season.

For the first time Sweeney made a “defenseman-by-committee” reference during Thursday’s conference call to announce the four year contract extension for Torey Krug, and talked up positive contract talks with 35-year-old John-Michael Liles.

Yes, that’s the same Liles that was a minus-7 in 17 games with the Bruins after coming to Boston at the trade deadline for draft picks and Anthony Camara. One would expect it to be a one year deal at a very reduced rate along the lines of last year’s $2.75 million to bring Liles back in Boston if the Bruins can’t somehow land a bigger free agent fish like Jason Demers, or Brian Campbell.

There’s also the possibility of something shaking loose with Kevin Shattenkirk or Cam Fowler in trade discussions, but Liles was the only available defenseman that Sweeney addressed by name during his chat with reporters.

“We’ve talked to free agent candidates. I’ve mentioned John-Michael [Liles]; I think that we’ve had very, very productive talks there. We’re looking for balance; we’re looking for younger players to have an opportunity to emerge and grab a hold of that,” said Sweeney. “Whichever we can improve our team internally or externally, we’re going to continue to evaluate and pursue. The trade market … whether that materializes remains to be seen. And it’s not an easy process, nor is the free agency process.

“So we’re going to do the work to try and improve our team but it starts internally with our group. And our coaches are excited about what our young players are going to bring to the table.”

After signing Krug to a four year extension that will pay him $5.25 million per season and buying out Dennis Seidenberg’s contract, the Bruins still have $19 million to play with headed into Friday’s open of the free agent market. So the Bruins have the capital to be players on July 1 if they want to make a big splash.

It just remains to be seen whether the Bruins will be capable of making a big splash given the available players, and how many of the big named ones seem to be leaning toward NHL destinations other than the Black and Gold. 

Wyshynski: Eriksson is looking to really cash in

Wyshynski: Eriksson is looking to really cash in

Greg Wyshynski joins Michel Felger on Sports Tonight to discuss the recent Boston Bruins moves and other potential landing spots for free agents Loui Eriksson and Milan Lucic.

Bruins view newly signed Krug as an emerging leader

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Bruins view newly signed Krug as an emerging leader

With Bruins defenseman Torey Krug in the fold for four more years, a Thursday afternoon conference call with the 25-year-old defenseman and GM Don Sweeney was about what the young puck-mover can accomplish over the next few years. With Krug coming off a four goal, 44-point season and offseason shoulder surgery, it will be a slow and steady progression to begin next season once he’s cleared to play.

What isn’t in question is Krug’s leadership, toughness and gritty attitude to go along with his considerable offensive skill set, and those all made the $21 million contract a no-brainer from the Black and Gold end of things.

“Torey’s got a very, very unique skill set that’s important to our hockey club. He’s had a very, very productive three years. His role this year and his time on ice, in all situations, increased significantly. He was able to shoulder much, much more responsibility in all parts of the game. As a young player who is invested in the Boston Bruins organization, he wants to win, he does things the right way every time he comes to the rink,” said Sweeney. “He wants to get better; he’s not satisfied. All the things you want out of a young player to identify with, which is something we also acknowledge, that Torey has really been identified as an emerging part of our core leadership group.

“I think he’ll help tremendously to help all of our young players that hope to fall in similar fashion with the success that he’s had up to this point. We have a lot of work to do in front of us and Torey’s going to help us get back to where we want to be in trying to win a Stanley Cup.”

Krug has averaged 10 goals and 41 points over his first three seasons in the NHL, and averaged a career-high 21:37 of ice time last season as a de facto No. 2 defenseman behind Zdeno Chara. It was a big season because Krug survived, and continued to put up points, as a legit top-4 defenseman in the NHL, but the 5-foot-9, 181-pounder also needed his shoulder repaired after his first season of heavy duty usage.

So it bears the question of whether Krug will stay in one piece with the heavy top-4 duty over the next four years. Whatever the answer is to that question, the puck-moving defenseman will be a leader, a feisty character on the ice and somebody that’s going to serve as a good professional role model for the flock of young players expected to come through in the next couple of seasons.

The Michigan boy couldn’t be happier to be a part of all of it in Boston for the next four years.

“I think [the leadership thing] has been something that was instilled in me in a young age, you know, coming from my father. It’s always been authentic. If anyone tries to force it then people see right through that, and it just doesn’t happen. But for me and this team and this locker room I think I’m able to bridge that gap from the young guys to the older guys,” said Krug. “I relate to every single person in that locker room, which I think will help our team as we grow and we mature bringing in younger guys from Providence. Or guys that are just signed and helping them develop and helping them feel comfortable within the locker room because it can be intimidating.

“It’s tough to walk in the locker room, you know, when you have Stanley Cup Champions and Norris and Selke Trophy winners. So it can definitely be very intimidating and hopefully I can serve as that bridge to kind of ease that gap for those guys. As far as young defensemen goes, the one thing that Claude [Julien] helped me with when I first came up was making sure I was myself. I was here for a reason. I was able to do the thing I do well, and I wasn’t straying away from that to try to be someone that I’m not. So I think young defensemen, once they realize that and they realize that everyone in this organization is there to help them then they’ll begin to improve. They’ll become themselves as they will at the NHL level.”

With Krug having experienced a couple of years of late season collapses as one of the young leaders on this Bruins team, even more will be asked of him next season as the Black and Gold push hard to right the ship.