Haggerty: Right move for Bruins to stand pat?


Haggerty: Right move for Bruins to stand pat?

Peter Chiarelli admitted he doesnt get many cold calls from the NHL's 29 other general managers these days.

He likes his hockey club and it shows.

Chiarelli is bringing 12 forwards back from last years Bruins team minus Benoit Pouliot, and five of their six defensemen plus 19-year-old super prospect Dougie Hamilton. Theyve got two goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin that suited up for the Bruins last season even if Tea Party Tim Thomas has flown the Black and Gold coop to Colorado.

When asked if teams constantly ask about Bostons top prospects in potential trade talks, it seems Chiarelli is successfully sending out a consistent message: He intends to keep the 2011 Stanley Cup-winning nucleus together.

"Ive been pretty clear over the last year and a bit that I really like the large makeup of our team," Chiarelli said. "Other GMs have been backing off. I dont get a lot of trade calls. Guys call and try to cherry pick on our top end guys, and I dont blame them for doing it. But I dont get a lot of calls. Its kind of a cycle: were a good team and nobody really wants to help us.

I dont want to say comfortable because you never want to say comfortable in this position. But Id be very content if our roster now is the roster we go with to start the season. Id be really content. But crazy things happen in trades or free agents, so you have to be on top of it in case you want to do something.

There is plenty of reasons for Chiarelli to be enamored with his club. After all, they marched to the Cup and proved they could be successful in their current incarnation.

When the factors are right, Bostons combination of toughness, depth, and quality goaltending gives them as good a chance as anybody else to come out of the Eastern Conference, which has been wide open the last two postseasons.

The Bruins also have young players like Hamilton, Rask, Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand that are still on the upswing in their careers, so theres plenty of argument to be made that they can get even better.

Whats the biggest potential flaw in Chiarellis potential status-quo plan?

It would appear every other team in the Eastern Conference is steadily improving, and some are hastily attempting to build a hockey super power.

The Bruins are getting busy staying the same while the rest of the East is moving on with their improvement plans.

Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby, Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, and it has begun clearing money from their salary cap to make serious runs at both elite unrestricted free agents, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. That is a scary proposition for the rest of the league when the Penguins were already one of the favorites to win the Cup next season.

The Rangers could have been the team in the Cup Finals rather than the New Jersey Devils, and they have a cast of young players hungry for their first Cup as well as plenty of cap space to make a big move headed into next year.

The Flyers have taken a step forward defensively after their deal with Toronto for Luke Schenn, and GM Paul Holmgren seems on the verge of making a big splash each and every offseason. Last season his moves gave Los Angeles the building blocks for a Cup winner, but they also tend to keep Philly strong and hungry every year.

The Washington Capitals still need a head coach, but they had a good weekend at the draft adding former Montreal flop artist Michael Ribeiro and tough customer Tom Wilson after they already seemed to be getting the hang of the winning thing during the playoffs.

The Maple Leafs have already added 22-year-old forward-on-the-verge-of-a-breakout James van Riemsdyk and look ready to pull the trigger on a Roberto Luongo swap that could finally address their longstanding goalie problems.

Erik Karlsson has helped elevate the Ottawa Senators to a legitimate playoff team as he augments a roster with an intriguing mix of young players and capable veterans who have Cup Finals appearances on their resume.

Tampa Bay still has Steve Stamkos, Marty St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier, Victor Hedman and a crop of talented young players with GM Steve Yzerman reshaping them into a contender.

The Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils return playoff teams confident they can get back there again even if the Jersey roster is suffering through some painful turnover.

The Carolina Hurricanes were a much better team under new coach Kirk Muller in the second half of the year, and their young squad is going to play with a different kind of energy watching the Staal brothers, Jordan and Eric, skate together for the very first time.

The Buffalo Sabres still have the same team everybody listed as trendy Northeast Division favorites last fall before team chemistry issues and Milan Lucic's assault on their goaltender submarined their season.

The Montreal Canadiens organization finally had a much-needed front office enema after last years embarrassing campaign, and the New York Islanders and Winnipeg Jets should be improved next season.

The point of going through the off-season ups and downs of the Eastern Conference is simple.

Nearly every other team in the conference has done something significant to improve themselves. The Bruins have done nothing aside from retaining their own players while their GM stays faithful to a team that bowed out in the first round of the playoffs.

the departures of Joe Corvo and Benoit Pouliot might be addition by subtraction, but thats a different story for another day.

Chiarelli will still be hunting for a Recchi-type forward after July 1 to add to the Boston mix as their one big roster-building move for next year. Any veteran acquisition the Bruins make will surely be done after the start of free agency, and be part of the secondary trade market Chiarelli has mentioned more than once.

Otherwise, Chiarelli likes what he has.

Everyone talks about teams that have oodles and oodles of cap space, but youve got to find players, said Chiarelli. Youve got to fill spots. I like the spot that were in right now.

Watching other teams improve wouldnt be a sole determiner for us to add somebody. I dont ignore it, but I wouldnt engage in trade talks because of it. I think were in a good spot right now. Were in a good roster spot.

Is standing pat the right move for the Bruins? Or should they be showing a willingness to execute a big, bold move in what's an important offseason for the Bruins?

Depending on how it all ends up, Chiarelli's decisions will be looked at as either justified faith or stultifying conservatism.

There will be all kinds of frustration if Nathan Horton goes down early in the season, and the Bruins have the same kind of offensive struggles that cropped up once he was done with a concussion in late January.

The Bruins are also slicing and dicing the power play this summer in hopes of revamping and improving it for next year, but its legitimate to question how much offense can be siphoned out of the same old PP personnel that crapped out during the last two playoffs.

Time will tell whether Chiarelli made the right call by standing pat, but thats his offseason plan and hes sticking to it.

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.