Haggerty's Bruins-Panthers preview


Haggerty's Bruins-Panthers preview

SUNRISE, FL The Bruins need a win, plain and simple.

Theyre riding a season-worst three-game losing streak that brings back some of the worst memories of their seasons first month, and the Bs have been losing in ugly, pathetic fashion. Theyve allowed other teams to consistently get the jump on them and theyve been playing comeback hockey in nearly every game over the last two weeks.

For a team thats barely clinging to a one point lead over the Ottawa Senators, though they do have two games in hand, the Bruins know that the time for excuses and alibis is long gone.

All that matters when it gets to March and April is the result at the end of 60 minutes, and the Bruins have won only five regulation games since the beginning of February. So something has got to give, and it starts with defense and goaltending.

You can look at a lot of things and fix areas. Its about our execution and playing our game. There are too many breakdowns. Everybody needs to do their job on the ice and the breakdowns are becoming costly, said Claude Julien. When we have layers then those breakdowns dont end up in the back of the net.

As for the Panthers, theyve been in the Southeast Division drivers seat just about all year and the Florida Cats are trying to hang on for dear life as the Capitals and Jets make their claims for a divisional title. Jose Theodore will get the nod given his long, illustrious history against the Bruins and the Panthers 24th ranked offense in the NHL will hope for another charitable night from the Bs defense.

Boston has to make sure that doesnt happen, and somehow find a way to make sure Tampa was their seasons rock-bottom and that it doesnt get any worse.

When you get behind the eight-ball like we have, I dont know how many games weve done that, you put yourself in a tough, tough position. Teams have found their games defensively and can hold you down when youre down one, two, three or even four goals, said Chris Kelly. Its easy to go out there and say youre going to put all the pressure, all the scoring and all the defensive play on your shoulders.

But thats not going to help anybody out. Were at our best when guys go out there and do what they do best. Everybody brings a different aspect out there and thats makes us a great team. When players get away from that is when you struggle even more and get into a deeper hole. You need to stick together and play together, and thats the only way out of it.

The Bruins hope to start digging out on Thursday night on their final game of a three-game road trip thats been disastrous at the first two stops in Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Brad Marchand has exactly two points in eight games during the month of March, and hasnt been his Little Ball of Hate self enough when the Bruins could use some emotional urgency. His forward line with Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron has been restored at practice, and that should prove all of its forwards with the proper motivation tonight. As if a team riding a season-worst three-game losing streak needed motivation.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Were not a team that relies on one or two guys to bail us out. Weve always been a group that does it by committee. We realize that what we have here, and what were all about, is that our strength has been as a pack. Its not as individuals. We need to play within our strength. Its not about one guy as much as its about all of us picking up our game and putting it in the right direction. Claude Julien talking about working together as a unit to get out of their slump rather than striking out as individuals.

KEY MATCHUP: The key matchup will be the Boston Bruins against brick wall Jose Theodore, who has been their kryptonite many times over the last ten years. Theodore is 15-13-3 with a 2.40 goals against and a .923 save percentage in 32 career games against the Bruins, but did fall to them earlier this season in the blowout loss just before Christmas. Itll be interesting to see how Jordan Caron matches up with David Krejci and Milan Lucic as the 21-year-old rookie shares some of his best attributes size, strength around the net and a willingness to play the body are similar to injured right wing Nathan Horton.

STAT TO WATCH: 3.75 the number of goals against average for the Bruins in eight games during the month of March, which ranks as the worst in the NHL this month.

INJURIES: Rich Peverley (right knee sprain), Tuukka Rask (groin strainabdomen strain) and Nathan Horton (mild concussion) are long term injuries for the Bruins. Peverley skated on his own for the first time on Wednesday. Max Sauve was sent back to Boston with a hip injury suffered Sunday and hes expected to be shelved for a lengthy period of time. Both Patrice Bergeron (lower body) and Adam McQuaid (upper body) skated on Thursday morning and are game-time decisions for the Bruins. For the Florida Panthers Dmitry Kulikov (knee), Scottie Upshall (sports hernia), Matt Bradley (upper body), Kris Versteeg (lower body) and Jack Skille (upper body) are out with injuries.

GOALTENDING MATCHUP: Tim Thomas will get the call for the Bruins, and hell be appearing in his 11th straight game for the Black and Gold including a pair of relief appearances. Thomas is 3-4 with a 3.74 goals against average and an .852 save percentage during the month of March, and appears to be battling fatigue hell need to overcome against the Panthers. Jose Theodore gets the nod for a hungry Florida bunch and will be attempting to resemble the goaltender that led the Panthers to a 2-0 shutout win over Boston on Dec. 8.

Krug: My play is "not something I'm proud of at the moment"


Krug: My play is "not something I'm proud of at the moment"

BOSTON -- Torey Krug has plenty of legitimate reasons why he might be getting out of the gate slowly this season.

Krug is still ahead of his initially scheduled return from major shoulder surgery on a torn labrum last spring, and has spent the last couple of games playing his “off” side on a defense pairing with Joe Morrow. It was passable on Thursday night in the win over the New Jersey Devils, but Krug wasn’t much good at all while finishing with a -3 rating in a 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden on Saturday night.

Krug was beaten in a race to the puck for a key shorthanded goal by Montreal speedster Paul Byron in the third period, and the B’s defenseman was a part of the group that allowed an insurance goal to the Habs that effectively iced the game. Krug also had five of his seven shot attempts blocked on the evening, and is still struggling to get his points through in what used to be a very effective weapon for the Black and Gold.

Clearly Krug looks like he’s still feeling his way back to full form coming back from the shoulder issues, but he wasn’t biting on that excuse after the loss to the Habs.

"There's no consistency in my game for whatever reason. I've gotta make sure I'm working to get better, so that my teammates can count on me every single shift,” said Krug. “It’s not there right now, and I’ll take the blame for that. I’ve just got to work through it.

“I have no consistency to my game at all. I make a good play and the next shift it’s a poor play. It’s not something I’m proud of at the moment, but I’ll work through it. I always have. There’s always times during the season when you play poorly and you have to work through it. Unfortunately for me it’s the start of the season, but I’ll get back to a place where my teammates can’t count on me every time I jump over the boards."

With zero points in five games, the link is also obvious between the power play’s struggles and Krug’s erratic play out of the starting gate this season. Claude Julien didn’t specifically address Krug by name, but said there is plenty of blame to go around after another in a long line of home losses to the Canadiens.

“We just lost a game here, so now we’re trying to pick on players. We lost this game tonight because we didn’t play well enough. We made mistakes that were too costly, and when you give up four goals to Montreal, and you have [Carey] Price at the other end, it’s pretty hard to beat that team,” said Julien. “So we needed to be better. I think overall, in a lot of those areas where we, like I said, we shot ourselves in the foot with some real poor mistakes. We can’t afford to do that against the Montreal Canadiens.”

The Bruins also can’t afford to go too much longer this season without Krug returning to form given his standing within a Boston back end that isn’t exactly flush with puck-moving defensemen.

Talking Points: Price a problem for Bruins once again


Talking Points: Price a problem for Bruins once again

BOSTON -- GOLD STAR: The Bruins have a very hard time beating Carey Price, and that was proven once again on Saturday night in Boston. The best chances for the B’s probably came earlier in the game with Ryan Spooner getting a couple of quality scoring chances in the early going, and Price making a very solid stop on a spinning David Pastrnak surprise shot from the high slot through traffic in the closing seconds of the second period. In total, Price made only 19 saves but didn’t give in when the Bruins really needed a mistake to open the door and let them back in. It certainly won’t go down as Price’s best, but it was another great example of why the Montreal netminder is so important to the success of his Canadiens team.

BLACK EYE: Torey Krug had a rough night in 22:29 of ice time. He was on the ice for three goals against, he had five of his shots blocked throughout the game and he was beaten in a race to the puck by Paul Byron for a shorthanded goal during a key sequence in the third period. Krug was also on the ice for the crucial final goal scored by Torey Mitchell when both the D-man and David Krejci were prime culprits in the play developing as it did. It’s certainly not helping Krug that he’s playing on his “off” side with Joe Morrow right now, and that he’s doing all of this while also still ahead of when he was supposed to return from major offseason shoulder surgery. Krug has been “okay” through the season’s first two weeks, but he wasn’t good at all on Saturday night in the loss to Montreal.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins had a decent first period and played to a 2-2 draw in the third period, so it was the “terrible” second period, in the words of Claude Julien, which ended up sinking the Black and Gold’s battleship. The B’s made plenty of mistakes in managing the puck, had some very long shifts on the ice where they couldn’t get an easy change and started making mental mistakes as a result of the overextended shifts. That turned into some very soft defense on Montreal’s first goal of the game, and a bad decision by John-Michael Liles to pinch with skilled guys Alex Radulov and Phillip Danault ready to make the Bruins pay at the other end of the ice. The second period was Boston’s bugaboo plenty of times last season, and it was again on Saturday night vs. the Habs.

HONORABLE MENTION: It’s tough to pick out players from the losing side that really stood out, but Dominic Moore certainly deserves some consideration for the way things have started out for him in Boston. He and Tim Schaller executed a beauty of a give-and-go before Moore finished with a flourish against Carey Price, and that goal gives the fourth line center a pair of goals in his first five games with the B’s. Moore finished with the goal and four shot attempts in 13:02 of ice time along with 6-of-12 face-off wins, and earned a take-down, along with an extra two minutes, for grabbing Alexei Emelin in a headlock and driving him into the ice.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2-8-1 -- the Bruins overall record against the Canadiens in their last 11 meetings, and that doesn’t include nine straight home losses to the Habs dating back to 2012.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's no consistency in my game for whatever reason. I've gotta make sure I'm working to get better, so that my teammates can count on me every single shift. It’s not there right now, and I’ll take the blame for that. I’ve just got to work through it.” -- Torey Krug, who struggled with a minus-3 rating in Saturday’s loss to the Canadiens.