Haggerty: Rock solid third line readying for postseason run

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Haggerty: Rock solid third line readying for postseason run

ANAHEIM, Calif. With Rich Peverley returning to action Sunday afternoon in Anaheim, Bruins coach Claude Julien had to take one unfortunate forward out of the lineup.

That forward ended up being Daniel Paille for a couple of different reasons: He hasnt been burning the world up offensively and the Bs coaching staff felt more comfortable playing Jordan Caron up on a top-six line if Peverley needed to be spelled for a shift or two.

One thing Julien wasnt going to touch was the incendiary third line, and the red-hot pieces comprising it. Once again the trio of Brian Rolston, Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot showed legs and skills as it produced a pair of goals in Bostons 3-2 win over the Ducks at the Honda Center.

Pouliot and Rolston provided the goals, with the 39-year-old former-and-current Bruins skater notching the game-winner, and theyve been seemingly doing that for the last two weeks. There was no way Julien was going to tamper with a forward combination that has put up 26 points and was a plus-23 over the last six games, and he loves what Rolston has brought to the table.

In fact, its looking more and more as if this will be Bostons third line when the Stanley Cup dance begins in mid-April.

That line I wasnt going to break up with Peverley coming back, said Julien. Rolston certainly doesnt look his age and he doesnt play like his age. Hes always had good speed and a good shot. Right now he seems to be excited being with the team and playing here for us.

That line has been outstanding for us. Its pretty hard to break up a line thats been scoring for you every night. Those guys are building some very good chemistry right now.

While the more heralded top lines were busy getting used to their new combinations with Peverley fitting up with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, while Tyler Seguin skated with former linemates David Krejci and Milan Lucic it was once again Bostons depth that proved to be the difference.

Its the same story as last years run to the Stanley Cup, but its the names that are different with Pouliot and Rolston coupled with the old standby in Kelly. The two-way center was at the heart of both scoring plays as he was moving the puck up the ice in transition and carrying it into the offensive zone.

On the first, Kelly slid a drop-back pass to Pouliot and the wiry winger buried a wrist-shot to the blocker-side while Kelly formed a screen in front of him. On the game-winner, Pouliot made a strong play along the wall and moved the puck up to a speeding Kelly in transition, with Kelly then feeding Rolston for a smoking one-timer. If the casual hockey observer didnt know any better, it would looks if the third line was actually Bostons top line ringing up points and scoring opportunities.

We had a pretty strong game," Rolston said. "Were getting opportunities and burying them and really enjoying some good chemistry right now. Kelly made two great plays on Pouliots goal and my goal. Then Pouliot made another great play on my goal.

We have tremendous depth . . . tremendous depth, were getting great goaltending and guys are holding each other accountable inside the dressing room in the right way. They care about each other tremendously and thats an important part of a winning hockey team. I recognized that quality right away.

For Rolston, the chance with Kelly and Pouliot has given him a chance to prove there is still something left in the tank, and thats pretty obvious while watching him glide and rifle one-timers past a world-class goaltender like Jonas Hiller. He had to play his way into shape after sitting on the shelf for the New York Islanders much of the season, but hes been a big-time catalyst for the Bruins since getting into the swing of things.

I had no question in my mind that I could contribute on a regular basis, but its about opportunity and getting the confidence, said Rolston, who has (3 goals, 8 assists) 11 points in his last six games. The coaching staff has shown a lot of confidence in me and that gives you confidence as a player, plain and simple. Ive produced in this league before and Im not over the hill yet.

It was once thought Peverley might just snap onto the third line when healthy, and perhaps Pouliot might be the odd-man out given his inconsistent performance throughout the season. But with only seven games left and players carving out their space in the playoff lineup, it looks like Bostons third line will stay as its currently constituted providing it can continue producing and protecting the puck.

It appears that once again as it was last season the Bruins third line is going to be a big contributing factor for them down the stretch and potentially into an anticipated long and productive playoff run.

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

BOSTON – The all-important results continue to elude the Bruins at the time when they need them most.

The Black and Gold lost their third game in a row, 1-0, to the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden Friday night when they allowed the game-winning goal with less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation. It was a simple defensive breakdown and some great tic-tac-toe passing with Marian Hossa finishing things off, but it also felt like a game where the Blackhawks coasted against a wounded Bruins team for 58 minutes before turning it on when it was winning time.

The winning goal was a cross-ice pass from Tanner Kero to Hossa, with the puck sliding right between the legs of Adam McQuaid in the slot, and Hossa picking a corner while giving Tuukka Rask zero time to react side to side.

“We had a game plan in place and our guys executed well, they were ready to play,” said Claude Julien. “One little mistake and it’s in our net, and you lose yourself a pretty important hockey game.”

So, now the Bruins have taken only one point in their past three games, have dropped behind the Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic Division standings and continue to skate around like they’re wearing the weight of the entire organization on their shoulders.

“At the end of the night it is another loss and that’s the biggest thing. Did your team play fairly well? I think so. I think we competed hard, but then again you’re dealing with some growing pains. We had an icing late in the game so that’s not necessary, but the winning goal that goes through three of our guys and in our net with a minute-and- a-half left,” said Julien. “We have to stand there again, and take the responsibility for our own actions. It’s unfortunate because that minute-and-a-half that was left in the game kind of tarnished everything we had done for the first 58 minutes.

“I thought we played pretty well against a good team. We had contained the guys that we needed to contain. We didn’t score any goals – I don’t think we did a good enough job there - we had some chances but again you got to find ways to score goals. That’s where we are at.”

Clearly, the Bruins didn’t give up a ton defensively and Rask had been solid for the first two-plus periods, but there was also a sense Chicago didn’t bring its best game either when Boston outshot the Blackhawks 17-6 in the opening period. It was also clear that, aside from a couple of good, early chances from Tim Schaller and Brad Marchand, along with a Joe Morrow breakaway chance, the Bruins offense wasn’t doing enough work to get closer to the Chicago net for any sustained pressure.

So, instead of a solid result with dark clouds swirling over Causeway Street that a big change is needed to jolt a stagnant team, the Bruins hang up another loss where they outshot their opponent and end up with nothing to show for it.

These are the kinds of losses that test morale and togetherness and could either be taken as a sign of things tightening up for the Bruins or of things continuing to spiral away from a team that just needs wins at this point.

“I’m sure everybody’s feeling down right now because we lost, but you can’t start pouting too much. You’ve got to move on,” said Rask, who allowed one goal on 22 shots in the loss. “[There’s a] big game coming up Sunday, and next week, so it’s a loss and we have to move on. [We have to] get ready for the next one. I’m sure guys are pissed today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Tomorrow is a new day for everybody on the Black and Gold including Julien, who is scheduled to still run practice on Saturday as the B’s bench boss before speaking to the media prior to the team leaving for Pittsburgh. So, it’s business as usual after another loss on Friday night in a classic Original Six matchup that’s clearly most of the luster from where it was at four years ago, but one can only sit and wonder how much longer business as usual cuts it for a hockey club that continues to flounder. 
 

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

BOSTON -- With three crushing losses in a row at a time when results are really all that matters, the Boston Bruins are reeling at the wrong time during the regular season. The B’s tried their best to win a game 0-0 with strong defense against a sleepy Chicago Blackhawks bunch on Friday night, but ultimately coughed up a Marian Hossa goal in the final minutes for a 1-0 regulation loss at TD Garden.

The defeat continued a swirl downward for the Black and Gold over the last week, and was a second straight shutout loss on home ice for the first time in almost 15 years. The losing stretch has also kicked up the chatter that Claude Julien is in trouble as head coach of the Bruins, and the hockey club’s underperformance up and down the lineup is ultimately going to cost the NHL’s longest tenured bench boss his job.

The Ottawa Senators have passed the Bruins in the Atlantic Division, and it’s only a matter of time before the Toronto Maple Leafs move by them as well with both Toronto and Ottawa holding six games in hand on Boston. Combine all of this with the B’s having missed the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons leading into this one, and it shouldn’t be at all surprising that Julien is squarely on the coaching hot seat.

The B’s bench boss was asked about his job security after the Chicago loss, and clearly didn’t appreciate the tough, but appropriate question.

“Well, I’m not into shock-journalism,” said Julien in a prideful tone. “So I’ll stay away from that question if you don’t mind.”

The Bruins posted their Saturday schedule shortly after Julien and the B’s players had addressed the media following the loss, and sure enough the embattled coach is scheduled to address the media post-practice as part of the regular practice day routine. So it doesn’t seem that a move with Julien is imminent this weekend despite another loss, but both the coach and the players know something is going to happen to shake things up with this team if they continue to struggle.

“Right now it’s a results based situation, so if you’re going to keep losing games then probably something’s going to happen,” said Torey Krug. “But right now we’re just pretty down emotionally after this game, so I don’t want to look at the big picture. I just [want to] focus on what’s going on in this room, and hopefully we can come back with a good effort the next game.”

A good effort might help Julien’s standing with the Bruins in the short term, but it’s impossible to imagine the B’s bench boss making it through the rest of the Bruins regular season given all of things working against him right now.