Haggerty: No more fooling around for B's offense

996061.jpg

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.

Marchand: 'No place I'd rather play' than Boston

Marchand: 'No place I'd rather play' than Boston

The Bruins made it official on Monday -- mere minutes after the news had broken -- as they clearly couldn’t wait to announce an eight year, $49 million contract extension for Brad Marchand. who is finishing up his Team Canada gig at the World Cup of Hockey.

PROFILE: Joe Haggerty's preseason look at Brad Marchand

The deal averages $6.125 million per season, broken up between actual salary and signing bonus money. The Bruins were most definitely given a hometown discount by an elite player who snapped home a career-high 37 goals and 60 points last season, the most goals scored by a Bruins player since Glenn Murray in 2002-03. And everybody knows goal scorers get paid in the NHL, even if Marchand won’t be expected to score quite that many every year.

Marchand, 28, has also been the second-leading scorer in the entire World Cup of Hockey tournament, behind only Sidney Crosby, and continues to raise his profile in the NHL world beyond his customary agitator role. The “Nose Face Killah” could have waited for until free agency if he'd wanted to pick up every last nickel on the table, but it’s very clear he’s invested in the team that drafted and developed him, and with which he won a Cup five years ago.

"This is an extremely exciting day for me and my family," said Marchand, who now has a full no-move clause for the first five years of his next contract. "I would like to thank the Jacobs family, [president] Cam Neely, [general manager] Don Sweeney, [coach] Claude Julien, the coaching staff, my teammates and our fans for their continued support and belief in me. I have been a Bruin since the start of my pro career and there is no place I would rather play. I look forward to doing everything I can to help our team achieve success and bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston."

Marchand has been among the team’s leading scorers since joining the league in 2010-11, has been the NHL’s most dangerous penalty killer over the last five years, and pairs with Patrice Bergeron to anchor the top line. He’s also become much more of a leader in the last few seasons as other character veterans have been peeled away from the core group, and a hometown discount proves it one of the most meaningful ways possible.

It was clear Marchand was invested in the Bruins when he helped recruit free agent David Backes with phone calls this summer, and he was also present for the recruiting pitch to Jimmy Vesey at Warrior Ice Arena last month.

The Bruins players at training camp were happy to hear No. 63 was going to be in Boston for the long haul.

“Marchy is Marchy. I think everybody kind of knows what that means,” said Kevan Miller. “He’s been great for our organization and great for the fans and for this city. He’s been all in since Day One, and he’s been a guy that I looked up to.”

While the Bruins have confirmed the contract, Sweeney won't weigh in until later today. But one would expect there will be an appreciation for the skill of the player, and Marchand’s commitment to the organization after accepting less than he could have gotten on the open market.

Monday, Sept. 26: So what happens if Canada loses World Cup final?

cp-morning-skate.jpg

Monday, Sept. 26: So what happens if Canada loses World Cup final?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while finding it hard to believe that it’s game day for the Boston Bruins. Summer is officially O-V-A.
 
-- The Montreal media is starting to get on board with this tougher, grittier version of the Habs, along with a healthy Carey Price.
 
-- Pierre McGuire sits in with Ottawa’s TSN sports radio station and talks Team Europe in the World Cup, as well as a number of other things.

-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Zeisberger is already openly wondering what would happen in Canada if they lose to Team Europe in the best-of-three final to the World Cup.

-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Puck Daddy Greg Wyshynski asks Brad Marchand if a part of him has thought about playing with Sidney Crosby on the Penguins if he hits free agency. Bells, alarms and whistles should be going off on Causeway Street to give No. 63 whatever he wants at this point. In case you missed it, I talked about the danger of Crosby trying to woo his Nova Scotian buddy to Pittsburgh last week.
 
-- PHT writer James O’Brien says it sounds like the St. Louis Blues are going to play a more aggressive brand of hockey this season.
 
-- For something completely different: Forbes Magazine says Pete Carroll, not Bill Belichick, should be considered the NFL’s foremost cheater.