Felger: They are who I thought they were

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Felger: They are who I thought they were

By Michael Felger

Five thoughts on the Bruins following an alarmingly bad performance Saturday in Toronto:

1. So now you want to fire the coach?

Where were you 11 months ago, after the Bruins became the first NHL team in 35 years to blow a 3-0 series lead in their second-round playoff loss to Philadelphia? Where were you after they peed down their leg in Game Seven at the Garden? Where were you after Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli explained away that defeat by saying, hey, we're one of only five teams to make the second round two straight years, so why is everyone so upset?

I mean, really. If no one lost their job after that, you think it's going to happen after two bad weeks in March?

2. I'd wouldn't call what the Bruins have right now a goalie "controversy." That would connote two guys making a case to be the starter through their solid play. That would be a good thing. I would classify the Bruins' current situation in net as a goalie "thing," because neither Tim Thomas nor Tuukka Rask look like they deserve the job. That, obviously, is a bad thing.

If you ask me, Rask is the sharper guy right now, but that's not to say he's been foolproof. Even his good games include a clunker or two. He's just looked better than Thomas, who seems to have lost whatever mojo he had from his terrific first half. He's won just once this month and was yanked in the second period in Toronto. Only, that wasn't the end of Thomas' night, as Rask blew another gasket, yelling at defenseman Dennis Seidenberg for an apparent screen, and Thomas was back in to start the third. Julien said Thomas returned for the final period because he lobbied for it during an intermission conversation.

Whatever. The B's have a thing on their hands. The solution? Even though I think Rask is the better (or least bad) goalie right now, Thomas still deserves to play his way out of this. He's been too good for too long this season for the B's to give up on him. Yes, just a few weeks ago we were talking about how important it was to get him his
rest, but that was before this thing came up. Now it's time to play him. If he shows no signs of snapping out of it, then go to Rask.

3. The power play looks better with Tomas Kaberle -- but who gives a crap how it looks? The puck still isn't going into the net. The B's have scored just one power play goal in their last 29 chances, and that was when they had a 5-on-3 advantage. Otherwise, all we've seen is a bunch of passes from Kaberle to Chara at the point and a lot of blocked shots.

Kaberle sure can pass the puck, but if he's the true "puck moving defenseman'' the B's so desperately needed, then it has yet to show itself. It better materialize in the playoffs, or this team has no shot. In the meantime, Kaberle is 0-3-3 with a plus-4 as a Bruin.

4. Why did the Bruins trade a second-round pick for forward Chris Kelly again? Didn't they already have a couple of guys like that (Greg Campbell, Danielle Paille)? Didn't they have a need on the top two lines, not the bottom two?

The last thing we needed was for Julien to get another defensive-minded plugger. He loves those guys. He wraps them in his bosom and rolls them over the boards every fourth shift like it was their birthright. Then he treats them to ice cream after the game. He can't get enough of them.

This month, Kelly has one assist and is a minus-4. Yet check his ice time; it's around 15 minutes a night. Rain or shine. A perfect Julien guy.

5. All that said, I think the Bruins will be okay. Note: I said "okay." Not champions. In fact, I don't feel dramatically different about the Bruins after this seven-game stretch (1-3-3) than I did after their previous one (7-0).

They'll bounce back from this. Maybe it will be Thursday against the Canadiens. And, come the postseason, if they get the right matchups, they could make the Conference Finals. If they have a tough draw, they could be out in the first round. I felt this way in October and I felt this way in February. I feel it now.

I think most of you got way too ahead of yourselves a few weeks back. Take off the footy pajamas. The B's don't have a Top Four roster. When they're playing hard and the goaltending is there, they can beat most everyone in a regular-season setting. But they aren't a great team.

Don't you understand where we are, folks? Unless or until Cam Neely makes a major change to the core (players andor coaches), or until Tyler Seguin develops into a top 10 player in the league, we'll remain where we've been for three years:

Purgatory.
E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Dupont: If Tuukka Rask is healthy, he should start for Bruins

Dupont: If Tuukka Rask is healthy, he should start for Bruins

Mike Felger and Kevin Paul Dupont debate if it is time for the Bruins to send a message to Tuukka Rask and have Anton Khudobin get the starts in net.

Nash stepping up when Bruins need him most

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Nash stepping up when Bruins need him most

BROOKLYN -- It took most of his first season in Boston, but Riley Nash is hitting his groove with the Bruins at exactly the right time.

Nash came up huge in a must-win game Saturday night against the Islanders, scoring both goals in a 2-1 win over the Isle. The unheralded Nash and equally unheralded backup goalie Anton Khudobin were the two most important performers in the tight, playoff-style win that snapped a four game losing streak while pushing the B's back into playoff position.

"That's part of [a big win], right? Big performances,” said interim coach Bruce Cassidy. "Generally you look to your best players, but [Nash] did a really good job. He's got a sneaky shot, so hopefully he uses it a little bit more. You can't say enough about those goals. We needed them tonight.

"Generally our top guns have been good offensively and have come through. But tonight it was the lesser lights for us in terms of offense, so good for us.”

Both Nash goals were titanic. The first came on the first shift following the Islanders goal in the first period. The fourth-line winger stripped Isles defenseman Scott Mayfield in the neutral zone and then flipped a shot past Thomas Greiss to the short side that tied the game at 1-1. Then in the third period, Dominic Moore hit Nash in stride as he sped into the offensive zone, and Nash weaved through defenders before sneaking one past Greiss for the game-winner.

The two goals give Nash four goals and six points in 21 games since the All-Star break, in line with his normal offensive output during his NHL career, and a step up from the three goals and nine points in his first 52 games this season.

The affable Nash was more than happy to contribute in a big win, and enthused at seeing the offense finally starting to flow on a semi-regular basis when the Bruins can really use it.

"It's quite the output as opposed to the season I've had so far, so I'll take it and be happy that we won the game,” said Nash. "I think everyone in here knew that was the biggest game of the year. It was going to be a really big uphill battle if we lost that one.

"Both teams came out desperate in a pretty tight, playoff-style game, but that's what it's going to be like for the rest of the season. So we've got to hunker down and take it one game at a time as the saying goes.”

With the Bruins third line fading a bit in these tight, physical games where players have to battle for their ice, it's been vital that Boston's fourth line step up and provide big minutes at both ends of the ice. Nash and Co. did more than that on Saturday night by potentially saving the season with his biggest, best game in a Bruins uniform.