'Brain-dead' defense sinks Bruins in loss

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'Brain-dead' defense sinks Bruins in loss

BOSTON -- Its not every day that Claude Julien thinks his hockey club played "brain-dead" defense.
But thats exactly what the Bruins coach said about a hockey club that had gone into Thursday night ranked fourth in the NHL while allowing a paltry two goals per game, but they were scorched for seven goals in a 7-4 loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden.

It was the most goals surrendered by a Julien-coached team since they lost an 8-2 decision to the Maple Leafs way back on March 6, 2008 when Phil Kessel was still wearing Black and Gold.

Some of the defensive breakdown is certainly attributable to a red-hot Thomas Vanek, who finished with a hat trick and five points that were instrumental in dismantling the Bs defense. Its no coincidence that Vanek has 28 career goals and 54 points in 46 games against Boston, and hes formed a dynamite combination with Jason Pominville while becoming the NHL's leading scorer.
But, yes, the Bruins were also an abominable mess defensively.
Zdeno Chara was on the ice for three of the goals scored by the Sabres, and finished with a minus-3 to go along with zero registered hits and three giveaways in a listless, invisible performance.
It was the first time Chara was a minus-3 since a March 11 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins last season when Evgeni Malkin and Co. toyed with the Bruins.
More than once the 6-foot-9 defenseman was caught up ice or away from the net and Vanek had the puck with ample time and space to make plays, and thats a recipe for Bs disaster.
Chara is the tone-setter for the rest of the Bruins in the defensive end, so its doesnt portend good things for the Black and Gold when teams are getting breakaways and unmolested shots at the net while No. 33 is out on the ice.
It started with the big defenseman getting pick-pocketed by Jason Pominville in the neutral zone that turned into a 2-on-1 for Vaneks first score less than three minutes into the second period.
The miscues happened far too often in Bostons first Northeast Division game of the season with 38 percent of their compressed regular schedule including divisional games.
Defensively I dont think I remember the last time we were this bad. The breakdowns and mistakes we made and the opportunities when you give Thomas Vanek those kinds of opportunities, hes going to make the most of it. I dont think we were extremely good on defense and thats what cost us the game.
I didnt expect this because it wasnt our type of game. When you look at the way we played -- the sloppiness of guys left by themselves around our net, the puck watching all over the place -- it was really disappointing; our guys defensively were just totally, totally out of it. We were told before the game to have our head on a swivel and that they really activate a lot in the offensive zone. Defensively, I guess you would say our guys were brain dead.
Julien singled out the goal scored by Tyler Ennis in the second period as the one that truly bugged him, and that was on the Bruins' captain along with Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand. Andrew Ference was draped all over Vanek in front of the net trying to strip the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder of the puck, but somehow Vanek managed to find a wide open Ennis at the right post as he was tumbling to the ice.

Chara was out of position after chasing Marcus Foligno far away from the front of the net, and didn't have enough time to recover on the bang-bang play. The tiny Buffalo forward had the teams third goal of the night, and Julien went apoplectic at the sight of a wide open Sabres forward attacking the net.

Chara similarly miscalculated on the go-ahead goal for Cody Hodgson and the Sabres in the third period when he was caught in-between on a 2-on-1 rather than cutting off the pass that eventually set up Hodgson's one-timer. Though Tuukka Rask was charged with six goals allowed in defeat, there were at least four Sabres strikes that the B's goaltender legitimately never had a chance to stop due to shoddy defense in front of him.

I almost broke my neck there, I think, with that lamp lighting up, said a wickedly sarcastic and embattled Rask after watching the defensive horror show in front of him. It was just a great defensive battle out there.
We gave up a lot of odd-man rushes, and then those two-on-ones, just a quick pass to the backdoor and one-timers in. Obviously, we have to get better on that. Too many times I think we just let those guys stand in front of the net by themselves. The puck watchingits not like us. We just got to fix that.
Chara wasnt the only defender that had a rough night, however.
Dougie Hamilton was shut out of the score sheet while being saddled with a minus-2, and absorbed a Drew Stafford elbow to the chops for his troubles that went uncalled as a penalty. Gregory Campbell and Lucic both finished a minus-2 as well as Julien attempted to mix-and-match forward lines after losing Shawn Thorntons services just a few minutes into the game.
But neither of those players is considered the best defensive player of their generation as Chara is commonly labeled in most NHL circles. So it was an eye-opening lack of defensive smarts from Chara that trickled down to the rest of the Bruins, and cant be repeated for a hockey club that relies on the bedrock of good fundamental defense and punishing competitiveness.

Cassidy: 'Trying to set a standard' of being one of the NHL's better teams

Cassidy: 'Trying to set a standard' of being one of the NHL's better teams

BOSTON – The Bruins have won seven of eight games under interim coach Bruce Cassidy and are fortifying their position as the third playoff team in the Atlantic Division with each passing victory.

The 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes at TD Garden on Tuesday night probably shouldn’t be all impressive based on the Yotes standing as the second-worst team in the NHL, but it was a classic trap game coming off a long West Coast road trip. Instead of falling for the trap the Bruins exploded for three goals in the second period, energized by a shorthanded Riley Nash strike, and continue to extend the winning stretch they need in order to punch their playoff ticket.

The postseason clincher is still a long way away from reality, but Cassidy said the B’s are starting to achieve the elevated level of play they’re aiming for while finally getting the full potential out of their team.

“I just want the guys to make sure that they play confident, solid hockey and believe in themselves. And play to a [higher] standard,” said Cassidy. “We’re trying to set a standard where we’re one of the better teams in the National Hockey League. They’ve been there before, the leadership group here. That’s where we’re striving to get through in the end.”

They haven’t exactly shied away from the competition either, twice beating the first-place San Jose Sharks and shutting out the first place Montreal Canadiens in the final straw that saw Michel Therrien axed in favor of Claude Julien.

The B’s have now opened up a three-point cushion over the Maple Leafs for their playoff spot and they’ve averaged 4.13 goals per game (33 goals in eight games) while allowing just 2.13 goals per game (17 goals in eight games) in the eight games going from Julien to Cassidy. 

The challenge now is to maintain that level of play over the final 19 games of the regular season to drive home their playoff bid and finish strong at a point where in each of the past two seasons they’ve utterly imploded.


 

Wednesday, March 1: Bruins okay with not dealing

Wednesday, March 1: Bruins okay with not dealing

Here are all the links from around the hockey world as NHL trade deadline day is upon us with no promise of fireworks in Boston.

*As referenced above, there’s a good chance the Bruins won’t be doing much today and they’re perfectly okay with that.

*Craig Custance grades every move made ahead of the trade deadline with plenty of action out of the way early.

*The Vancouver Canucks will not be trading Ryan Miller, which is smart given the normal market for No. 1 goaltenders.

*The New York Rangers lost out on the Kevin Shattenkirk rental sweepstakes at the deadline, so they’ve opted for Brendan Smith instead.

*The Florida Panthers may make a move at the deadline (which they did in acquiring Thomas Vanek) but they will not make or break their team with deadline deals.

*Doug Armstrong says that Shattenkirk was frustrated by his role with the St. Louis Blues, and that played into his trade to the Capitals.

*For something completely different: It’s a national holiday in Canada as Jay and Dan will be returning to their natural habitat.