Marchand, Lucic admit trouble tapping into playoff motivation

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Marchand, Lucic admit trouble tapping into playoff motivation

Its no stretch to say this years playoffs was a 180 degree turn backward for Bostons top offensive forwards after last years run to the Stanley Cup.

The only member of the top-six forwards playing close to the top of his game by the time the postseason arrived was Rich Peverley, who missed six weeks with a sprained knee injury. The rest of the Bruins that battled through an entire regular season didnt seem to have enough left in the gas tank after playing nearly 200 games in the last 17 months and over 200 if preseason games were included and that manifested itself in the playoffs.

Milan Lucic finished with zero goals in the seven-game series against the Washington Capitals, and couldnt consistently provide the menacing physicality that helped him lead the Bruins to a win in Game 3. David Krejci led the Bruins with 12 goals during last years run to the Cup, and finished with only a single goal against Washington while struggling mightily to generate offense.

Patrice Bergeron was hobbled by a torn oblique midway through the series against Washington, and Tyler Seguin battled through a left hand injury that will require surgery this summer.

Brad Marchand was another Bs player that couldnt maintain his Nose Face Killah edge for the entire playoff series he did last year while stirring it up against all of Bostons playoff opponents. Bs coach Claude Julien said that some players handled the mental challenge entering this years playoffs better than others, and make your own judgments based on the way some Bruins forwards performed.

Physically I think we were okay. There didnt seem to be any issues physically. I think mentally, some players handled the heavy workload over the last two years better than others over the course of the season and the short summer and everything else. Thats what happens with Stanley Cup teams, said Julien. I dont think it makes a player less valuable or less of a better player than others and everyone handles it differently. We had some guys that came back and were the same player they were the year before. We had some players that really struggled that way.

Marchand didnt disagree with his coach.

We didnt break out the way we can and the way we were hoping to, said Marchand. Thats going to make us more excited to come back next year and do a better job. They did a good job and they battled hard. You could tell they didnt want to give us any odd-man rushes and they were able to stick to that.

His best game happened after Claude Julien had dropped him to the fourth line in practice, and basically called him out for his lack of edge.

The edge and a higher level of effort returned, but he finished with one goal, two points and a minus-1 in seven games. Marchand also revealingly admitted that he had a difficult time getting an emotional edge heading into this years playoffs like the hungry, desperate tone that was set last year.

It played a part in it. We had a long year, a short schedule and another tough season again this year. It made it a challenge to get prepared this year, said Marchand. You dont notice it until after it happens. Youre obviously excited for the playoffs, but the hype of last year didnt really feel the same this year. But at some point you have to find a way to get yourself engaged and prepare for the game.

I learned about how I have to make sure I prepare. There are different ways to get up for games. When youre not as excited or able to get up for games like we were last year during the playoffs, it can be a little tough. You have to be mentally tough enough to be able to mentally prepare yourself. Its a tough job to mentally prepare yourself to play at a high level every night, but what you have to learn to do being a professional.

What Marchand is saying makes a lot of sense.

The Bruins arent the vintage Detroit Red Wings with a high-powered offense capable of dominating puck possession, and theyre not the Pittsburgh Penguins with star-powered special teams units. The Bruins are a blue collar team that needs to bring emotion, physicality, work ethic and maximum effort to the table in order to bring the swaggering intimidation that helped them win the Cup last season.

When they dont bring those qualities the Bruins become very ordinary, and thats exactly the way they looked against the Capitals.

Personally it gets that fire boiling inside again that youre not happy with what happened, and youre not happy with yourself, said Lucic. You want to do whatever you can to get yourself to the top. Sometimes you have to lose in order to win, and weve shown in the past that we had to lose before we were champions.

Maybe that was another case here? The best way to say it is that the last two years almost felt like one long season. It felt like a baseball season almost with almost having played 200 games in the last two years. Obviously you want to play for as long as you can, but this is an opportunity to get some rest and make the most of it.

The question that remains now for the Bruins: how much do the Bruins evaluate based on the belief that the forwards that struggled will bounce back fully, and how much of this years playoffs revealed potential scoring issues within the forward group.

Its no exaggeration to say the flagging performances of the Bs top forwards was the biggest reason the Bruins couldnt advance past the first round of the playoffs.

Its going to take a long, hard look in the mirror to figure out what best to do about it.

Bruins having 'very, very productive talks' with D-man Liles

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Bruins having 'very, very productive talks' with D-man Liles

The Bruins still hold high hopes for what free agency might bring them for a defenseman when the market opens Friday at noontime, but it also feels like Bruins GM Don Sweeney is under-promising while hoping to over-deliver. Either that or the Bruins really don’t have many good prospects at significantly improving their blue line group headed into next season.

For the first time Sweeney made a “defenseman-by-committee” reference during Thursday’s conference call to announce the four year contract extension for Torey Krug, and talked up positive contract talks with 35-year-old John-Michael Liles.

Yes, that’s the same Liles that was a minus-7 in 17 games with the Bruins after coming to Boston at the trade deadline for draft picks and Anthony Camara. One would expect it to be a one year deal at a very reduced rate along the lines of last year’s $2.75 million to bring Liles back in Boston if the Bruins can’t somehow land a bigger free agent fish like Jason Demers, or Brian Campbell.

There’s also the possibility of something shaking loose with Kevin Shattenkirk or Cam Fowler in trade discussions, but Liles was the only available defenseman that Sweeney addressed by name during his chat with reporters.

“We’ve talked to free agent candidates. I’ve mentioned John-Michael [Liles]; I think that we’ve had very, very productive talks there. We’re looking for balance; we’re looking for younger players to have an opportunity to emerge and grab a hold of that,” said Sweeney. “Whichever we can improve our team internally or externally, we’re going to continue to evaluate and pursue. The trade market … whether that materializes remains to be seen. And it’s not an easy process, nor is the free agency process.

“So we’re going to do the work to try and improve our team but it starts internally with our group. And our coaches are excited about what our young players are going to bring to the table.”

After signing Krug to a four year extension that will pay him $5.25 million per season and buying out Dennis Seidenberg’s contract, the Bruins still have $19 million to play with headed into Friday’s open of the free agent market. So the Bruins have the capital to be players on July 1 if they want to make a big splash.

It just remains to be seen whether the Bruins will be capable of making a big splash given the available players, and how many of the big named ones seem to be leaning toward NHL destinations other than the Black and Gold. 

Wyshynski: Eriksson is looking to really cash in

Wyshynski: Eriksson is looking to really cash in

Greg Wyshynski joins Michel Felger on Sports Tonight to discuss the recent Boston Bruins moves and other potential landing spots for free agents Loui Eriksson and Milan Lucic.

Bruins view newly signed Krug as an emerging leader

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Bruins view newly signed Krug as an emerging leader

With Bruins defenseman Torey Krug in the fold for four more years, a Thursday afternoon conference call with the 25-year-old defenseman and GM Don Sweeney was about what the young puck-mover can accomplish over the next few years. With Krug coming off a four goal, 44-point season and offseason shoulder surgery, it will be a slow and steady progression to begin next season once he’s cleared to play.

What isn’t in question is Krug’s leadership, toughness and gritty attitude to go along with his considerable offensive skill set, and those all made the $21 million contract a no-brainer from the Black and Gold end of things.

“Torey’s got a very, very unique skill set that’s important to our hockey club. He’s had a very, very productive three years. His role this year and his time on ice, in all situations, increased significantly. He was able to shoulder much, much more responsibility in all parts of the game. As a young player who is invested in the Boston Bruins organization, he wants to win, he does things the right way every time he comes to the rink,” said Sweeney. “He wants to get better; he’s not satisfied. All the things you want out of a young player to identify with, which is something we also acknowledge, that Torey has really been identified as an emerging part of our core leadership group.

“I think he’ll help tremendously to help all of our young players that hope to fall in similar fashion with the success that he’s had up to this point. We have a lot of work to do in front of us and Torey’s going to help us get back to where we want to be in trying to win a Stanley Cup.”

Krug has averaged 10 goals and 41 points over his first three seasons in the NHL, and averaged a career-high 21:37 of ice time last season as a de facto No. 2 defenseman behind Zdeno Chara. It was a big season because Krug survived, and continued to put up points, as a legit top-4 defenseman in the NHL, but the 5-foot-9, 181-pounder also needed his shoulder repaired after his first season of heavy duty usage.

So it bears the question of whether Krug will stay in one piece with the heavy top-4 duty over the next four years. Whatever the answer is to that question, the puck-moving defenseman will be a leader, a feisty character on the ice and somebody that’s going to serve as a good professional role model for the flock of young players expected to come through in the next couple of seasons.

The Michigan boy couldn’t be happier to be a part of all of it in Boston for the next four years.

“I think [the leadership thing] has been something that was instilled in me in a young age, you know, coming from my father. It’s always been authentic. If anyone tries to force it then people see right through that, and it just doesn’t happen. But for me and this team and this locker room I think I’m able to bridge that gap from the young guys to the older guys,” said Krug. “I relate to every single person in that locker room, which I think will help our team as we grow and we mature bringing in younger guys from Providence. Or guys that are just signed and helping them develop and helping them feel comfortable within the locker room because it can be intimidating.

“It’s tough to walk in the locker room, you know, when you have Stanley Cup Champions and Norris and Selke Trophy winners. So it can definitely be very intimidating and hopefully I can serve as that bridge to kind of ease that gap for those guys. As far as young defensemen goes, the one thing that Claude [Julien] helped me with when I first came up was making sure I was myself. I was here for a reason. I was able to do the thing I do well, and I wasn’t straying away from that to try to be someone that I’m not. So I think young defensemen, once they realize that and they realize that everyone in this organization is there to help them then they’ll begin to improve. They’ll become themselves as they will at the NHL level.”

With Krug having experienced a couple of years of late season collapses as one of the young leaders on this Bruins team, even more will be asked of him next season as the Black and Gold push hard to right the ship.