Bruins top line sleeps through another game

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Bruins top line sleeps through another game

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton were a top forward line that helped push the Bruins all the way to Stanley Cup glory last season.

But they might not make it through four games together this year if their ugly start to the season doesnt reverse itself quickly.

The Bruins suffered a highly uneventful 1-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Monday afternoon in a Columbus Day matinee special at TD Garden, and for the third straight game Bostons incumbent No. 1 line played like it really don't want to skate together anymore. The line was also out on the ice for Milan Hejduks game-winning goal in the third period after failing to spark the offense against a young, unproven Avalanche bunch.

Lucic has only six hits in three games and hasnt been the tower of fire-breathing intimidation he can be when playing with some genuine anger. Krejci has been average at best to start the season after leading the team in playoff goals last year. And Horton has been the most absent of the bunch in the early going.

Lucic said its a matter of supporting each other better on the ice, but its also about each player performing the little tasks that made them so successful last season. Things like moving in front of the net when defensemen are looking to take point shots, or simply helping a teammate scrape a puck out of the corner.

In three games, the trio of high-end offensive players has two points, a minus-six rating and 13 shots on net the kind of numbers that scream out trouble on a stat sheet and staleness to a coaching staff.

We have to support each other better and we just have to come up the ice together, said Lucic. Its the reason why we were successful last year, like . . . we supported each other throughout the ice and we made plays.

Lucic had a golden chance in the second period when he bombed through the slot and received a centering pass from Horton, but Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov knocked the puck away with his left shoulder. The Bs left winger actually had a couple of legit scoring chances on the Avs goalie, but the hockey gods arent likely to smile on players who arent leaving everything out on the ice.

Through three games Horton has exactly one shot on net and zero hits, which means hes been a physical and offensive no-show since the Bruins dropped the puck Thursday night against the Flyers. It was understandable if Horton got off to a sluggish start given his summer away from normal workouts and a slow progression during training camp, but hes been an invisible man in three straight games after becoming Bostons Game 7 hero last year.

Perhaps the concussion is making Horton tentative when it comes to throwing his weight around, but that didnt seem to be the case when he was scrapping with Habs players in front of the net during the preseason.

Given the trios performance or lack thereof and the teams offensive deficiencies in two of the first three games, it appears Claude Julien is weary of watching the sleepwalking hockey thats taking place with some of his top forwards.

If Horton, Lucic and Krejci dont right the ship in Carolina on Wednesday night then theres sure to be some changes coming to a Bs team thats barely out of the starting gate. Given that Lucic and Horton, in particular, have always spoken about how much they enjoy playing each other, perhaps the threat of line liquidation is exactly the kick in the pants that they need.

I think when your top line is supposed to be your top line, it should try and be that every night," Julien said. "So far I dont think theyre in sync and I dont think theyre working hard enough as a group. But its part of our job here to get those guys going. Whether its through breaking them up or whether its through meetings, weve got to find a way to get those guys going.

Right now I dont think those three -- any one of those three -- has found his game yet that we know they can play. Theyre certainly a little under-par right now.

Perhaps the golfing analogy is perfect for the Bs top line because if they dont start producing soon then Claude Julien is going to start scrambling up forwards to get things humming again.

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

Bean: The (incorrect) case for the Bruins signing Kevin Shattenkirk

Bean: The (incorrect) case for the Bruins signing Kevin Shattenkirk

The Bruins should not sign Kevin Shattenkirk. They really shouldn’t. 

Yet they might. Pierre McGuire said on TSN Radio Tuesday that his guess is that Shattenkirk, arguably the best free agent defenseman on the market, will end up in Boston.

It is remarkable how universally against a Shattenkirk megadeal B’s fans have seemingly been. A Twitter poll with over 3,600 votes this month had Bruins fans preferring Boston sign 40-year-old Zdeno Chara to a two-year, $8 million extension than the 28-year-old  Shattenkirk to a seven-year, $45.5 million deal. 

That is obviously the correct conclusion, but considering how hard the false “Chara is old and bad” garbage is pushed in this town, it’s telling that 64 percent would rather he stick around than the team build the defense around Shattenkirk. 

Of course, Shattenkirk is not a bad player just because he’s been overrated in recent seasons. He’s a decent second-pairing defender and strong power play asset who can be penciled in for 40 points a year. The Bruins already have that in Torey Krug, and he makes less than Shattenkirk figures to command. Shattenkirk is also a righty who plays on the right, which is not a need for the Bruins, whereas Krug is a left shot who plays both sides. 

Add in the Bruins’ cap situation due to some bad contracts and they why of Shattenkirk would be a bad signing doesn’t need to be re-hashed. By this point, the explanation’s been given a few times in a few different places. 

So what would the Bruins’ actual case for signing Shattenkirk be? 

TO KEEP IT MOVING 

Last season was encouraging for Bruins fans because it saw them reach the playoffs for the first time in three years while also seeing young talent emerge. Yet they still only made the playoffs by two points, something of which Don Sweeney and Cam Neely are undoubtedly aware. 

So for all the good signs, this could be a fringe playoff team again if more improvements aren’t made, and missing the playoffs for the second time in three years would mark a step back in the eyes of ownership, perhaps putting jobs in danger. It would be a shame if money were spent irresponsibly for the sake of saving jobs, but Shattenkirk would definitely make the Bruins better next season, even if it crippled them financially down the road. 

TO PULL A CHIARELLIAN FREE AGENT SWITCHEROO

With McAvoy set to be a top-pairing player and Brandon Carlo a good second-pairing option, the Bruins do not have a need for a highly paid right-shot defender. That doesn’t mean they don’t have needs elsewhere. 

Last offseason, Peter Chiarelli made the controversial move of trading Taylor Hall, one of the best left wings on the planet. He did it to get Adam Larsson to help build Edmonton’s blue line up, then he went out and signed Milan Lucic in free agency to replace Hall. 

If the Bruins truly have designs on adding Shattenkirk, perhaps they could have something similar in mind: Trade someone like Carlo for either a left-shot defenseman or a left wing, then replace Carlo with Shattenkirk. 

This would still not be financially palatable, however. When the Oilers traded Hall for Larsson, they swapped a player with a $6 million cap hit for a player with a $4.16 million cap hit and replaced the original player (Hall) with a player in Lucic who carried a $6 million cap hit. So essentially they netted one player for an additional $4.16 million. 

Carlo is on his entry level contract, so unless the Bruins traded him for a player on an entry-level deal, they’d be spending a lot of money in any maneuver that involved replacing him with Shattenkirk. 

TO GO ALL-IN ON POST-CLAUDE LIFE

Claude Julien’s detractors lamented his affinity for responsibility. They loved it when Bruce Cassidy was more open to trading chances. 

Well, you like trading chances? Shattenkirk’s your guy. He’s a good skater, a good offensive player and a sub-par defender. You put Krug, Shattenkirk and McAvoy as three of your four top-four defenseman and you’ll be a long way from the days of Chara, Seidenberg and Boychuk, for better or worse. 

BUT, KEEP IN MIND . . . 

They for sure should not sign Kevin Shattenkirk. 

Morning Skate: What does trading a first-rounder get you now?

Morning Skate: What does trading a first-rounder get you now?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading, while wishing that Gordon Hayward and Paul George were already in Boston, like, yesterday.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Freidman gives his 30 thoughts for the week, including the trade value of a first-round pick right now.

*It could that non-unrestricted free agents steal all of the thunder on July 1 with massive contract extensions a la Connor McDavid.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the Detroit Red Wings taking potential fliers on a number of veteran D-men that are out on the free market.

*With free agency right around the corner, the legendary Stan Fischler details the sad end to Bobby Orr’s career in Boston, where he was lied to about the offer extended to him and ended up playing things out with the Chicago Blackhawks in a way that it shouldn’t have gone. The sight of Orr in a Blackhawks sweater is one of the real all-time NHL oddities out there.

*The NCAA is eying college hockey expansion in NHL markets, including the University of Illinois and Pitt, and, from what I’ve been told, perhaps UNLV and maybe even Vanderbilt. This is a great thing for amateur hockey players and anybody that can’t get enough of the game.  

*Ex-Senators defenseman Marc Methot holds no ill will toward the Sens after being dealt from Vegas to the Dallas Stars following his selection in the expansion draft.

*Josh Ho-Sang shares his wisdom to Islanders prospects as a 21-year-old somebody that’s gone through the ups and downs of being in their shoes.

*As we referenced above, Connor McDavid is closing in on a massive contract extension with the Edmonton Oilers that will probably make him the highest paid player in the NHL.

*For something completely different: My heart goes out to this Roslindale family fighting through a situation with a child who has a life-threatening disorder. They have a Go-Fund-Me page, so please give if you can.