Boston Bruins

Bruins notes: Missed calls benefit Rangers

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Bruins notes: Missed calls benefit Rangers

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Claude Julien was the vision of an irate hockey coach in the first period after the New York Rangers scored the only goal of Saturday afternoons matinee at TD Garden, and he had good reason.

Derek Stepan made a nice tip off a Mike Sauer point shot to get a puck past Tuukka Rask, and give the Rangers a 1-0 lead they would protect for more than two periods of defensive hockey; but it never should have happened.

First Marian Gaborik was clearly off-sides entering the Boston zone with slightly more than six minutes gone in the first period, but it went unrecognized by the linesman, and a shot on net resulted in a face-off within the Bs defensive area.

This time Vinny Prospal cheated the draw, and jumped into the face-off circle early on a busted play that led to Sauers blast from the point that Stepan tipped home for his 20th goal of the season. With both teams within the NHLs top five in goals against average (the Bruins are third with 2.34 GAA and the Rangers are right behind in fifth with a 2.37 GAA), Julien knew that the goal was a big game-changer that early in the game, and was rightfully indignant at two major miscalls in a row.

Julien explained it in golfing terms, but its pretty clear he wasnt about to extend any golf clap courtesies for a refereeing crew that didnt have their sharpest afternoon.

It was a missed off-sides, but they make mistakes, said Julien. But then the guy jumps in and the guy who passed it to the point was obviously in and it should have been blown down. So, that one point, you know? Theres one mulligan but I didnt feel that they needed two.

Despite the bad calls, the Bs coach wasnt about to absolve his players for deciding not to show up until five minutes remained in the third period, however, and Julien intimated that his team was simply too soft on the puck against a big, strong, physical Rangers squad.

It took us a while to get going. I thought that the other team played a pretty solid game, said Julien in summarizing the game. They were strong on the puck, they were solid, they were gritty, and we were a little light on our sticks there for the first 40 minutes. That kind of put us in a bad situation and in the third period it was too little too late.

The Bruins missed an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot when they dropped the game to the Rangers as the Carolina Hurricanes lost their game on Saturday as well so the Bs will clinch a playoff spot with their next victory that can come as quickly as Sunday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Mark Recchis next point would tie him with Paul Coffey for 12th on the NHL's career scoring list. Recchi had been credited with an assist in Thursdays win over the Canadiens that was taken away by a scorer's change after the game.

The line of Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and David Krejci had zero shots on net through the first two periods of play against the New York Rangers, and finished with only two shots on net in a rare off night for the Bs top line. Krejci, in particular, seemed to be having a tough time finding room to operate with the puck in the offensive zone, and really never made any adjustments in creating against the very physical Rangers defensive unit.

I think its that we didnt get pucks in deep and we didnt get our feet going early enough. Thats where we had success the last couple games, said Julien. So we forced a lot of things and consequently our top line didnt have a shot after two periods. And you know that when those kinds of things happen, were not doing the things that we should be doing.

Tuukka Rask earned the No. 3 star in the loss to the Rangers, and very nearly matched Henrik Lundqvist save-for-save in a performance thats dropped him to 5-2-1 over his last eight games, and makes it a bit more unlikely that the 23-year-old is going to push his personal record over the .500 mark this season.

Despite all that, Rask finished with 23 saves and stopped everything aside from the Derek Stepan tipped puck in the first period.

I think hes been pretty good lately. I think Tuukkas played pretty solid hockey for us in the last month, said Julien. Its been refreshing I think for everybody, including himself, and we can move forward here knowing that we got two goaltenders that can do the job for us.

The Bruins recognized legendary radio announcer Bob Wilson on Saturday afternoon with a ceremonial puck drop prior to the game, and the unveiling of a plaque dedicating the TD Garden home radio booth on the 9th floor in his name. Wilson was the radio voice of the Bs during the Stanley Cup teams of the 1970s captained by Bobby Orr, and has retired in recent years to New Hampshire where he continues to watch Bs hockey on a regular basis.

The Stanley Cup in1972 was certainly a highlight of my career and its the last Stanley Cup goal that the Bruins scored, said Wilson. It was interesting, Phil Esposito told me after the game that Bobby Orr came up to him on that final face-off with about 20 seconds, 30 seconds left in the game and he said Get the puck to me an Ill kill it off.

That was Bobby talking to Phil. Get it to me and Ill take care of the rest. It was an exciting time and the welcome at Logan Airport in the middle of the nightthat was fun.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Haggerty: Not many fans of face-off changes among Bruins

Haggerty: Not many fans of face-off changes among Bruins

BOSTON – It may just be that all of these slashing penalties and face-off violations will become a training camp fad of sorts and the preseason period of adjustment will give way to business as usual once the regular season opens.

The NHL can’t possibly hope to sell fans on games like the Bruins' 2-1 overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night at TD Garden that included 16 penalties and 12 power plays that completely marred the normal game flow. Some of it was about the seven slashing penalties handed out by the officiating crew and the ensuing special teams flow that never allowed either team to truly find their 5-on-5 footing.

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Even more prominent, however, is the frustration that many players from both teams are feeling for the strict enforcement of the face-off rules and the impact it’s having on the flow of the game. Brad Marchand called it “an absolute joke” a couple of days ago after watching the first night of preseason hockey. He doubled down on his criticism after watching it play out in a game.

He said it was so bad that players from both teams were laughing at the sheer absurdity of the standstill face-off posture and just how much it’s taking away from the enjoyment, whether it’s fans, the media or even the officials, of a free-flowing NHL game.

“It’s really taking a lot away from the game. You can’t have a winger taking all the face-offs. I mean if you look at the percentages of how many times guys got kicked out tonight, and what it’s taking away from the teams, it’s not worth what’s coming with it,” said Marchand. “Literally both teams were laughing out there about how bad the rule is. It’s becoming a big joke, so there’s got to be something tweaked with it.

“These games are painful. I thought it was a bad rule before I played, but it’s even worse after going through it and actually seeing what it’s like. It’s basically an automatic [face-off] win for the other team. The only thing you’re worried about is not moving before the puck is shot.”

The choppiness resulted in some pretty bad nights in the face-off circle for the Bruins. Ryan Spooner lost 9 of 10 draws and Riley Nash 12 of 19 face-offs while Claude Giroux somehow won 20 of 25 draws despite the difficulty all around him. While Patrice Bergeron was a solidly respectable 9 of 18 in the face-off circle for the evening, the four-time Selke Trophy made no bones wondering aloud what exactly is the point of all this.

Bergeron is rarely critical of anything despite his standing as a prominent, respected player in the league, but he seemed to take major umbrage with rules that are totally messing with his considerable face-off skills. The Bruins top face-off man likened it to Pee Wee hockey when he was 12 where everybody would just stand perfectly still in the face-off circle until the puck was dropped. That little tweak wrings every last bit of competitiveness and 1-on-1 battle out of the ultimate hockey showdown and has left Bergeron with a bad taste in his mouth.

“I think that the face-off is definitely an adjustment. I think that the face-off is a skill and you work your whole career to develop that and you work on your hand-eye and timing and everything and try to take that away. You have to adapt I guess. It’s something that I’ll definitely do, but I don’t think I’m a huge fan,” said Bergeron. “I wonder what they’re really trying to get out of it. I understand that it’s feet above those lines and sticks and whatnot. That being said it also kind of sucks. Hockey is a fast game and they’re really slowing it down.

“Faceoff is a skill and you work on timing, you work on hand-eye, and you know when the linesman is going to drop the puck. And I was thinking more about him kicking me out than dropping the puck. That’s what makes you second guess. It just makes you hesitate and everyone is just standing there. There’s no battle right now. It’s like face-offs when I was 12 years old. Everyone is just standing still and no one is really moving.”

So what’s the ultimate answer from an NHL that wasn’t tremendously forthcoming with these preseason tweaks and now has a stand-up, influential player like Bergeron kicking it around just like everybody else? It might be time for the league to revisit their face-off crackdown and perhaps get a little more advice from accomplished players like Bergeron for the next time around. But Bergeron, Marchand and others aren’t exactly holding their breath for any more changes. Instead, they simply hope that some of the referees apply a common-sense approach once the regular season begins. 
 

Bruins have just as good a chance as the Celtics do this season (which is small)

Bruins have just as good a chance as the Celtics do this season (which is small)

Dan Shaughnessy ran a piece this week calling the Bruins the No. 4 team in town these days. He wasn’t wrong. They are. 

Of course, the claim isn’t really a discussion about the Patriots or Red Sox, as they’ll always be the two most popular teams in town. It’s about the Bruins being behind the Celtics, which again, they are. 

Yet while the general premise of the story was correct, there was an issue to be taken with the piece. Shaughnessy wrote that, “In terms of overall interest and championship hopes, [the Bruins] are a distant fourth.”

That’s where he’s wrong. Nobody would argue against the Celtics garnering more interest (even if the Bruins might have a stronger fanbase), but championship hopes? The teams are deadlocked. 

The Celtics are one of the top teams in a league in which only one team (the Warriors) has a chance. The Bruins are a middle-of-the-pack team in a league in which the literal last team in the playoffs (the No. 16 seed Predators) went to the Stanley Cup Final last season. 
 
This isn’t about which team is better, because that’s not close. The Celtics have three All-Stars in their starting five and the third overall picks from each of the last two drafts. They’ve also got one of the best coaches in the league. 

It’s also not about who will likely go farther. The Celtics will at the very least reach the Eastern Conference finals. The issue is that they’ll then either be eliminated by the Cavaliers or earn the opportunity to perhaps get swept by the Warriors in the Finals. 

That leaves the Celtics with a certainty of a very good season, but also close to an impossibility of a championship season. 

As for the Bruins, they probably won’t be much better than they were last season, if at all. This season was always the one to watch in the Sweeney era, as it will see the biggest implementation of the young players drafted. There should be at least four Sweeney draft picks on the team this year (Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson), plus youngsters from the Chiarelli era still pushing for jobs. 

The biggest change figures to be on the back end, where the Bruins should have the best top-four they’ve had since Sweeney dealt Dougie Hamilton. A lot of that rides on McAvoy, but there remains hope on the back end in future seasons with Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril trying to eventually break in. 

Will the Bruins rule their division the way the Celtics will? Most likely not. The guess here is that Tampa and Montreal will finish ahead of teams like Boston, Ottawa and Toronto. 

Yet there isn’t a Cleveland or a Golden State waiting to swallow up whoever does emerge throughout the playoffs, and that’s what leaves the Bruins and Celtics with equal chances at a title. The Penguins have won back-to-back titles, but the Bruins have gone 4-1-1 against them in the regular season the last two years. They’re hardly the unstoppable force that exists in Golden State. 

So in terms of buzz, offseason moves and anticipation for a new season? Sure, the Celtics have it all over the B’s. I’m certainly way more excited for basketball season. When it comes to championship hopes, however, the B’s and C’s are no different. 

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