Haggerty: Thomas quickly puts 'awful' game in past


Haggerty: Thomas quickly puts 'awful' game in past

KANATA, Ontario It appears that a Conn Smythe and Vezina Trophy winner can still have his cage rattled.

Tim Thomas wasnt too thrilled with getting pulled from a tied game against the Columbus Blue Jackets heading into the third period last weekend, and he was determined to answer strongly in his next shot between the Bruins pipes.

I let in three goals. It was awful, said Thomas while dripping with a healthy dose ofsarcasm. In the back of your head youre like I dont want to let in three goals and be gone after two periods. I want to finish the game.

Its an uncomfortable feeling because youre not used to being in that situation.

The chance Thomas had been waiting for arrived Wednesday night in a Scotiabank Place setting where Thomas has dominated throughout his career, and he did that once again while stopping 47 shots en route to a 5-2 victory for the Bruins over the Senators.

The victory pushed Thomas and the Bs to the top of the Eastern Conference standings for the first time this season, and speaks to the reigning Cup champs simply winning through anything.

Watching Tuukka Rask replace him in the third periodto make 11 saves in the relief victory against Columbus definitely left an impression with the B's netminder, and he'd been waiting for his next chance to shine.Thomas was impenetrable through a game where the Bs were outplayed with Zdeno Chara missing, and held the fort in the first period when the Senators fired 13 shots on him. It started within the first 30 seconds of the game when the Sens attacked Boston off the opening faceoff, and Colin Greening fired on net in the ultimate wakeup call for a snoozing Bs bunch and their waiting goalie.

The shot came from the slot area thats normally Bostons no-fly zone when Chara is logging his 25 minutes of ice time, but it was wide open for business withthe Bruins scrambled to get their bearings. They never really did throughout the 60 minutes despite ending up with two points.

Luckily Thomas kicked out his left pad and knocked the puck away from harms way, and set a tone Ottawa would have to earn any offense coming its way. That ultimately got discouraging for the Senswhen defensemanErik Karlsson couldnt find a way through while firing slap shots from the far points. Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Chris Neil all worked in tight around the cage, butcouldnt shovel anything past Thomas near the left and right posts aside from a meaningless Spezza score in the third period among Thomas' 21 saves. Just the fact that the Sens were able to bully their way to the net and squeeze off 49 shots was something that left Claude Julien displeased following the teams third straight victory. There are too many soft spots without their 6-foot-9 stopper. Unfortunately that will be a way of life until Chara finds his way back into the lineup.

I was joking with the players that Zee is not that good that hes going to cut down the shots against by 28 or 25 shots," said Julien. "Were certainly a much better team than they were Wednesday. Were missing him because he plays big minutes against big players, but right now we just have to look at our game. This has got to do with every single one of our players letting their game slip.

As a team were going through a bit of a challenge right now and I dont think its because of injuries. I dont think were executing and I dont think were battling as much as we should be. Part of it is that our emotions arent as good as they were when we were going well. We need to pick up our game here."

So how does a hockey team pull out a game where it was outplayed, outshot and generally outhustled by its opponent?

A couple of nice individual efforts fromguys like Andrew Ference and Daniel Paille went a long way for the Bs, but nobody was shying away from giving Thomas credit for holding things together early in the game while Boston rediscovered its groove. The high number of shots and genuine scoring chances for Ottawa immediately drew Thomas into the game, and left him answering questions about his career dominance of the Senators organization. Thomas has 11 career wins at Scotiabank Place -- the most in any road arena during his career -- a save percentage approaching .950 and three shutouts at the home of the Senators.To say going to Ottawa puts him in his happy place is no understatement.

Thomas smiled and acknowledged the stats concerning the Senators. But thehumble goalie alsopointed out Wednesday nights effort had more to do with the fact he and his team havebeen pretty damned good this season. The Bs goaltender has improved to 14-5 on the season and is second behind St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott with a .940 save percentage that allowed him tojump back ahead of fellow B'sgoalie Tuukka Rask in their see-saw statistical battle.

Thomas insisted that its no magical formula when he walks into Scotiabank Place, and there were no mystical hockey powers at work when he turned away 10 shots in the final frenziedtwo minutes of action. The Sens made their last-minute rush, but they werent good enough attempting to get through Thomas.

Im 12-1 in my last 13 games. Its not necessarily Ottawa and its not Canada. I get asked this a lot. The team is finding ways to win right now, said Thomas. Whether were playing the best hockey we want to be playing or not, it might not be the case. But were finding ways to win and were having stretches where were playing good hockey.

I feel pretty good. But, for example, I felt better in the playoffs last year than the way I feel right now. Thats the way it should be, but I cant really compare much to last year at this point.

Thomas should feel good. Just as Tuukka Rask should feel good too. The Bruins are showing just three months into the season that theyve got the most dominant goaltending duo going in the NHL right now, and they're pushing each other.

Acciari, Heinen called back up to Bruins

Acciari, Heinen called back up to Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass. – The Bruins made a few roster moves after a slogging 4-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche earlier this week, with an eye toward getting some competition going among the forward group, and perhaps spark a team struggling offensively.

Danton Heinen and Noel Acciari were brought up from Providence to skate with the big club on Saturday morning at Warrior Ice Arena and gritty Anton Blidh was returned to the P-Bruins after a solid stint as a fourth-line energy guy for the Black and Gold. 

Jimmy Hayes and Colin Miller were the late skaters off the ice following morning skate, so those will be the healthy scratches for the Bruins with both Acciari and Heinen in the lineup for the Black and Gold tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden.

Heinen has been tearing it up for the P-Bruins lately with four goals and seven points in his past five games with a plus-2 rating, including a couple of two-goal games for a Providence team that’s starting to heat up. 

Otherwise, things looked fairly similar for the Black and Gold, who didn’t make any changes to the struggling top power-play unit that was a disaster on Thursday night in the first period. It was Patrice Bergeron in the bumper role, Ryan Spooner on the half-wall, David Backes at the front of the net and David Krejci and Torey Krug manning the point positions. 

Here are the Bruins projected line combos and D-pairings based on the morning skate: 







Morrow-K. Miller

C. Miller



Bruins power play looking for some upgrade answers

Bruins power play looking for some upgrade answers

BOSTON - It would appear things can’t continue the way they are for the Bruins' power play. 

After a disastrous first period helped dig them a hole in a 4-2 loss to the lowly Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night, there was some pretty serious soul-searching going with a man-advantage that has been both toothless and mistake-prone on far too many nights. 

In the Colorado loss a couple of early power-play possessions, one that was completely ineffectual with zero meaningful possession or shots on net and then a second that turned into a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal, dropped the B’s into a hole they couldn’t climb out of. The shorthanded sequence was particularly damning with a desperate Torey Krug diving to keep a puck in the offensive zone, and then watching helpless as MacKinnon beat him to the loose puck and then took off down the ice behind the last line of B’s defense. 

Krug placed the blame on himself for the high-risk play at the offensive blue line, but it’s hard to wholly blame somebody that was using hustle to try and make something happen offensively. 

“I thought they were tired, and if I could keep it in then we keep them hemmed in and get them running around. At the end of the day, it’s a 50-50 play, but maybe early in my career, I learn that now and probably won’t do it anymore. Sometimes you’ve got to go through those things to learn,” said Krug. “It’s just one of those plays I thought instinctively I could get there and keep him hemmed in, and you could even tell when he went in on the breakaway that he was tired.

So, if I keep that in and we keep them hemmed in, hopefully we get a couple chances. But we’ve got to be better, some of our better players on our team, and we’ve got to take the onus on ourselves to start capitalizing on opportunities and changing the game for our team.”

Nobody is going to reasonably suggest that a dangerous power-play guy like Krug be removed from the special-teams unit, but clearly something needs to change. The Bruins are tied for 25th in the NHL on the power play with a 14.1 percent success rate, and they can’t blame lack of opportunities because they’re middle of the road when it comes to power-play chances this season. 

Only the Flyers, Stars and Blackhawks have allowed more shorthanded goals than the Bruins (four) in 28 games played as well, so the Black and Gold essentially aren’t playing good defense or offense on the power play this year. Krug saie that it’s a mindset thing and that the Bruins need to get back to the confident, energetic way they attacked penalty kills last season. 

“We want to make plays, we want to help our team. It’s not like we’re out there not trying to make plays or anything, but we just have to be better,” said Krug. “We’ve got to have better focus, crisper passes, making quick plays to the net and making things happen. I feel like right now we might just be standing there, [just kind of] static, just hoping that things are going to happen and we’re not making them happen. 

“So, we’ve got to change our mindset, and like I said, those guys on that unit are the guys that will go to work and make sure we’re better next time for our team.”

But it goes beyond simple approach. The Bruins lost their second-leading PP goal-scorer last season when Loui Eriksson signed with the Vancouver Canucks. Other top unit PP performers like David Krejci,  Krug and Ryan Spooner haven’t been as good this season. Still, perhaps the biggest reason is the all-around offensive disappearance of Patrice Bergeron, who had 12 goals and 13 assists on the PP last season for a team-best 25 power-play points. This season, Bergeron has one goal and two points on the PP in 25 games and has been neutralized by opposing penalty kills from his “bumper” position roving up and down the slot. 

The Bruins are determined to ride things out with Bergeron both five-on-five and on the PP, and rightfully so, given his quality, productive body of work with the Bruins. He’s Boston’s best player and you don’t ever go away from those guys. 

But Bergeron has been ordinary for the Bruins on the PP after being extraordinary last season, and not much is going to change with the B’s man advantage unless No. 37 begins to find the range, confidence and short-term quick burst that’s needed for the B’s power play to flow through him like a well-oiled scoring machine. A greater impact by David Backes on the net-front power play could help and an uptick in PP production from Krug, Krejci and Spooner would obviously be welcome for the Black and Gold. 

But the Bruins power play is designed to play off Bergeron’s many qualities and strengths when he’s at his best, and a big part of the B’s troubles and Bergeron’s troubles are linked together because No. 37 has been less than his best in a season that’s been challenging for him from the very beginning.