Bruins hope LucicHorton breakup sparks team

565844.jpg

Bruins hope LucicHorton breakup sparks team

BOSTON -- Claude Julien now looks like something of a hockey prophet after openly wondering two weeks ago if he might just have to break up last years top scoring line for the Bruins. Offensive struggles can prompt bold changes, and the Bs are finally getting a little bold.

The line-change predictions came true in the third period of Bostons Tuesday night loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, and it now appears further changes will be in the offing in their next game.

The Bs coach, who gave the top trio ample time together to work things out, admitted he didnt know what might happen with changed forward combinations but the status quo wasnt getting it done among the 12 forwards.

The Bruins are dead last in the NHL with 1.67 goals per game after their first six games of the season, and its clear many of the name forwards are pressing too hard.

The Bruins havent had a first-period goal since the season-opening loss to the Flyers, and havent held a lead in a games two periods since their second game of the year against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

All of these trends dont bode well for the Stanley Cup champs, and many of the individual players are being pretty hard on themselves.

The way Im playing; the way were not scoring, both me personally and the team, said Nathan Horton. Im not playing the way I want to play. We just need to work harder. Everybody just needs to get back to playing the way they can, playing with more confidence and wanting to do things with the puck when they we have it.

So the Bs coach pushed Chris Kelly to top line center in a temporary move with Milan Lucic and Tyler Seguin on either side of the defensive center, and Nathan Horton was slotted in on the second line right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

That leaves Rich Peverley as the third-line center, sharing reps with David Krejci, with Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Caron as their wingers alongside the speedy Peverley for Thursday nights game against the new-look Leafs.

"I wish I could stand here and pretend I'm a genius, but I don't know what I'm going to get," Julien said of the line alterations. "I just know what I was getting wasn't good enough."

The biggest development of the forward combination switcheroo was the separation of Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton as bookend power forward wingers after a largely unsuccessful six games.

The Bruins are 2-4 in their six games, last in the NHL in goal-scoring, and three points along with a minus-1 out of Horton and Lucic in 12 games. The struggles of Lucic and Horton might not be the biggest problem facing the Black and Gold in their first half-dozen games, but theyre clearly not part of the solution either.

For their part, both wingers expressed personal frustration at the slow starts to their seasons, and openly admitted their games havent yet reached anything approaching optimal levels. Lucic went one step further and said he wholeheartedly supported the line changes, and understood the back-to-basics mindset required to get him back on track.

In simple terms Lucic knows he must play the steaming-locomotive style that helped him earn his reputation as an intimidating player, and hes strayed away from that player as hes developed into a 30-goal scorer in the NHL.

Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to take a step forward, and thats where I am personally at this point, said Lucic. Maybe Im trying to do too much and thinking about doing too much, and its causing me to do nothing. I need to step back and focus on playing that straight-line, strong-along-the-walls style and just simplify my game.

When Im pushing the puck up and chipping it in, thats when Im most successful. There have been spurts where Ive played well, but not enough of it. This year were a little bit late here and there, were not finding each other when were open and were not seeing each other as well. Thats why theres a need for a change. I support this decision for a change, and we just have to work our way out of this to find our game again.

Lucic actually had some very good chances in the three games leading up to the emotional Carolina loss, and fired off nine shots in those three games without getting anything to the back of the net. But Lucic was shut out in the shot department in the loss to the Hurricanes, and the Bs power forward is hoping that will change with some new faces sparking his game.

Weve been together for six games now and things havent been going as well and we know they should be going, said Lucic. We havent scored a first period goal in a while now, so its not to bad a thing to switch things up.

This kind of starts us off fresh here. Its not a bad thing. Its just a new look to get things going.

A fresh start is exactly what the Bruins need after six games, and it remains to be seen if the new look and newly adopted attitudes make a difference.

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right. 
 

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like we’ll be getting a Pittsburgh/Nashville Stanley Cup Final, which I suppose would be the best possible outcome at this point.

*You hear the name and it just gets you angry all over again if you grew up watching the Bruins. Ulf Samuelsson is in the running for an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to a report.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Chris Johnston says it appears that the time is running out on a Cinderella season for the Ottawa Senators.

*A taste of winning at the world championships with Team Sweden could fuel Alex Edler’s desire for a change from the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks.

*Interesting piece on a former can’t miss goaltending prospect with the Nashville Predators that ended up totally missing, and what he’s been up to in life since then.

*Guy Boucher explains to Pro Hockey Talk why he kept changing goaltenders in the Game 5 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Don Cherry explains that he hates afternoon hockey during his Coach’s Corner from Hockey Night in Canada in the Game 5 blowout between the Penguins and Predators.

*A good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Alex Prewitt on the Nashville Predators, and the evolution of the franchise into a team on the verge of a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

*For something completely different: What a win by the Boston Celtics in Game 3 in Cleveland, and quite an interesting, fired up interview with Al Horford afterward.