Bruins try to recapture defensive identity

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Bruins try to recapture defensive identity

BOSTON -- Sometimes, players don't realize how bad they are until they see it on video.

That's why Bruins coach Claude Julien had his players show up to the TD Garden on Sunday to focus "specifically" on the video of their 4-2 loss in Montreal on Saturday night.

"When you see it, it kind of opens our eyes," said Julien. "We've attacked different areas, at times, and showed them. But today was more of the whole package. And that's why we kept our whole day on video, more than on practice. You need to realize it, before you can do something about it."

Sundays are usually the team's day off. And while the now 3-7 B's didn't skate today, they did have to come in and watch film of what they've been doing wrong.

"When things are going like this, obviously, I'm not really surprised with having to come in today and having to look at things," said Bruins center Patrice Bergeron. "Because that's the only way we're going to come out of it. It's about putting some work into it, some hours into it, and finding ways. No one else but us can do it."

Amidst rumors of potential trades because of an early-season slide that only seems to be getting worse, the Bruins are confident with the players they have. For no other reason than the fact that a majority of the players inside that dressing room hoisted the Stanley Cup several months ago.

But everyone's in agreement. Something has to change. Not personnel, not lines, not defensive pairings. That change needs to come from re-capturing their pride and identity that led them to a championship run last season.

"Right now, when things are extremely hard, you've really got to rely on your structure and doing things properly," said Julien on Sunday. "Get your structure back, and get your execution back, and keep it simple. And work from there.

"We've got to get back to the things that made us successful," added Julien. "We're a team that likes to put pucks forward and move it forward, and put it behind their D's and go to work and grind it out and win those battles. From there, a lot of things happen for us. As the game goes on, we get more space, we get more opportunities to make plays. We've just got to get back to doing those things."

And after watching video on Sunday, now they know.

It's all about defense.

"Where our team's strength comes from, is that, anytime we've been good defensively, we've been able to feed offensively from that," said Julien. "When we come back hard, when we back check hard, and all five guys come back in the zone, and we cause turnovers and we go up the ice together, that's where our strength, offensively, comes from."

Sunday's video session brought some clarity to what they've been doing wrong. Too many players caught up-ice. Not enough players getting back on defense. Relying on individual efforts to produce goals.

The Bruins know that's not who they are. They know that's not what got their hands on the Cup.

They just needed to see it on video to realize just how much they've steered away from that style.

"We're not a very good team when we stretch or try those long passes, because when a guy gets the puck, he's by himself," said Julien. "We're a team that relies a lot on support and chips and races, and stuff like that. So, our strength offensively, comes from how well we play defensively. I've always said that, you do well defensively, you're going to get the puck a lot quicker. This is what we are, as a team, and this is what we have to understand.

"That's how our team is built. And there's nothing wrong with being built that way, because it got us a Stanley Cup last year."

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while thinking about and praying for the people of Manchester, England. It’s obviously an evil, cowardly act to bomb any public place, but to do it at a concert filled with women and children is the lowest of the low.

*The Capitals players are acknowledging that there’s some kind of mental block with the Stanley Cup playoffs. CSN Mid-Atlantic has all the details.

*It’s been a very odd postseason for the NHL where there are so many non-traditional teams still alive with the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Fina, and the Ottawa Senators fighting for their lives in the Eastern Conference Final. On that note, there is a ton of disappointment at the empty seats at the Canadian Tire Centre for Ottawa’s home games in the playoffs. It sounds like there are going to be empty seats tonight for a do-or-die Game 6 in Ottawa. That is an embarrassment for a Canadian city that’s supposed to pride itself on their love of hockey. Let’s hope the Senators fans have a last-minute surge to buy tickets and show some appreciation for a Senators team that’s given the Ottawa fans a totally unexpected ride through the postseason this spring. I mean, Erik Karlsson at the top of his game is worth the price of admission all by himself.  

*The Pittsburgh Penguins have the Senators on the ropes, and it’s been an impressive showing given that they’re doing it without Kris Letang.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the ownership for the St. Louis Blues giving their GM Doug Armstrong a vote of confidence.

*Another early exit from the playoffs is going to start making some players expendable on the New York Rangers roster.

*Here’s a good piece on how David Poile built the Nashville Predators, who have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. Give credit where it’s due: He manned up and made a big move dealing away Shea Weber straight up for PK Subban. It’s really worked for Music City as they’ve stepped to the next level.

*Speaking of Nashville’s rise this spring in a wide open Western Conference, Pekka Rinne has silenced the critics he might have had by carrying his team to the Cup Final.

*For something completely different: Boston law enforcement is on high alert after the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in the UK.

 

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.