Bruins' top line must execute

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Bruins' top line must execute

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- There's no hiding behind it. Right now, the Bruins just simply can't execute offensively.

When general manager Peter Chiarelli traded for puck-moving defenseman Tomas Kaberle at the trade deadline, he gave himself limited salary cap space to make another deal for a stud forward.

The thought was that Kaberle's puck-moving skills would be good enough -- especially on the power play -- to make the offense better. It put a lot of pressure and confidence into the guys up front.

And as we know, there's no more pressure than in the playoffs. Especially when trailing a series 2-0, a series you're supposed to be winning.

Montreal defeated the Bruins 3-1 on Saturday night at the TD Garden, taking a 2-0 lead in their first-round series, heading into Montreal for Games 3 and 4.

The blame could be pointed in a number of areas. But there's no denying that the Bruins have had a whole lot more offensive chances than the Canadiens.

Through the first two games of the series, Boston has out-shot Montreal 66-46, yet, the Habs are out-scoring the B's 5-1.

With 35 shots on Saturday night, the Bruins were able to score one goal. And make no mistake, it was a big one.

It came when Brad Marchand took a Mark Recchi pass and sent a feed of his own out front to Patrice Bergeron, who was going hard to the net with his stick on the ice.

Bergeron caught the pass, and found Montreal goaltender Carey Price down and out, cutting the Canadiens' lead to 2-1, 7:38 into the second period.

It was Boston's first goal of the series. And yet, it will stand as their only goal, entering Game 3 Monday night in Montreal.

With Bergeron's line stepping up on Saturday night, the spotlight then switched to the team's top offensive line, or at least, the line that's supposed to be the Bruins' best offensive trio.

For the second straight game, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, and Nathan Horton finished each as a minus-1, with no points to show for themselves.

Some would say inexcusable. Bruins coach Claude Julien said that he's not going to "talk about individuals in any negative way" throughout the playoffs. Seeing that there's not much positive you can say about the Bruins' first line, there isn't anything to say about them at all, other than, the execution has to be better, as soon as the first period of Game 3.

"We had to work pretty hard tonight, just to get that one goal," said Julien after the loss. "I don't think the Canadiens had to work as hard to get theirs. That's basically the difference right now in the games.

"The execution of one team, compared to the execution of the other one. I'm going to stand here and tell you that the execution isn't good enough. It needs to be better. And that's what we have to do from here on in."

Julien doesn't have to sit up on the podium and point the finger. We aren't stupid. Zero points and a combined minus-6 isn't what anybody in the Bruins' organization drew up when they prepared for their first-round series with Montreal.

Bergeon gave the B's a little presence in front of the net on Saturday, by going hard at the goal with his stick on the ice. The little things do work, and Bergeron's goal is a perfect example of that.

"It was there, but obviously not good enough," said Bergeron. "I mean, one goal's not going to beat Montreal."

And no goals from Boston's top line isn't going to get the job done either.

"I thought actually after Montreal's early 2-0 lead, we hung in there pretty good," said Recchi. "We didn't lose our composure, but we just didn't execute like we're capable of. That's the biggest thing all night, the execution wasn't there."

That's been the biggest thing all series. And it needs to change soon, especially with Krejci, Lucic, and Horton. If it doesn't, this one might not be coming back to Boston.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

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Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want. 

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

It was the longest run that the P-Bruins have had in a few years and another unmistakable sign that the future is brightening for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins AHL affiliate has ended their playoff push in the Calder Cup semi-finals. 

The Providence Bruins fell by a 3-1 score to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night to lose to the Crunch in five games when the best-of-seven series was set to return to Providence this coming week. The P-Bruins had vanquished the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs before finally exiting against Syracuse. 

Though it’s over, it’s clear some of the Bruins prospects made a nice step forward over the second half of the AHL season and then into the Calder Cup playoffs. With the Calder Cup Finals yet to start, B’s forward prospect Danton Heinen stands as the second-leading playoff scorer in the entire AHL with nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games after really struggling in the first half of his first pro season while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the AHL. 

This could bode well for the skilled Heinen and his hopes to make the leap to the NHL in the near future after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Denver. AHL journeymen-types Wayne Simpson and Jordan Szwarz were the next two top scorers for the P-Bruins in the playoff run, but Jake DeBrusk had a strong playoff season as well while popping in six goals in 17 games. DeBrusk led all Providence players with his 54 shots on net in the 17-game playoff run for Providence, and he headlined a group that included B’s prospects Ryan Fitzgerald, Zach Senyshyn, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik (who succumbed to shoulder surgery during the playoffs), Emil Johansson and Robbie O’Gara all getting some vital playoff experience. 

Both Heinen and DeBrusk will be strong candidates for jobs on the wing with the Boston big club when training camp opens in the fall after strong showings in the postseason. 

On the goaltending side, Zane McIntyre was solid for the P-Bruins at times while in 16 of their 17 playoff games with a .906 save percentage. But it was Malcolm Subban that was playing at the very end of the playoff run for Providence and featured a sterling .937 save percentage in the four AHL playoff games that he appeared in this spring after an up-and-down regular season. McIntyre had an .857 save percentage and 4.37 goals against average in the final series against Syracuse, and looked a little spent like many of the other P-Bruins players once they’d unexpectedly made it to the third round of the AHL postseason.  

The only unfortunate part of Providence’s run is that newly signed youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson couldn’t be a part of it after signing and then appearing in NHL games following a cut-off date for AHL playoff rosters. Both missed on an experience that could have been very conducive for their professional development, and uncovered a wrinkle in the NHL/AHL transaction process that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a developmental league.