Haggerty: Bergeron line needs to be much better

Haggerty: Bergeron line needs to be much better
December 7, 2013, 10:30 am
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(AP Photo)

The Bell Centre is one of those settings that can separate the real deal from the pretenders.

Clearly the Bruins are for real as a team having proven themselves over and over again over the last five years through adversity and hostile environments. But there have been new faces and new player combinations added to the mix for this season’s edition of the Black and Gold, and some of them didn’t pass their first big test vs. the Habs in a tight 2-1 loss featuring an “atrocious, embarrassing, unacceptable” second period in the words of their own coach.

“Our second period was atrocious and embarrassing. That cost us the game. If we’d played the second period like we played the first and the third, we’d have won the game,” said Claude Julien. “We didn’t show up for the second period, and we allowed them to score two goals against us.

We didn’t need to be in the position [in the third] because we should have won it in the second. [The Canadiens] did to us what we were supposed to do to them.”

Patrice Bergeron ended playing a fairly strong game as he always does in his home province, and generated eight shot attempts while only winning 12-of-28 face-offs attempts in defeat. His line wasn’t on the ice for any of the goals against – and in fact Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla were on with Gregory Campbell for all three of the goals scored in the game, in an odd twist of events – and you noticed him from time-to-time during a game battling for first place in the Atlantic Division.

Loui Eriksson and Brad Marchand?

Well that’s something else altogether different.

Eriksson and Carl Soderberg looked more than a little intimidated in their first taste of Bruins/Habs at the Bell Centre, and perhaps understandably so.

The Big Swede had a couple of shots on net, but also cross-checked Alexei Emelin in the face at the offensive blue line as the Habs defenseman was moving in for a hit on him, not exactly the kind of gritty toughness you’re looking for from a 6-foot-3, 220-pound power forward type that doesn’t seem to want to get hit.

Eriksson was a complete non-factor with zero shots on net, zero hits, zero blocked shots and zero involvement while playing a soft game along the walls and boards.

At one point at the end of the second period a group of Montreal players circled around Eriksson, perhaps sensing there was blood in the water, and chirped at him without getting any fight or attitude sent back their way. That lack of fight was prevalent throughout the game.

“We were moving our feet a lot more [in the third period] and bringing the puck to the net, and once we do that we’re a more effective line,” said Bergeron, matter-of-factly in the postgame in Montreal. “But when we don’t, we’re not.”

They weren’t (effective) when the game hung in the balance in the second period, and Marchand once again wasn’t an offensive or emotion force for the Black and Gold. With a full two months to look at the numbers, things are really starting to take shape for Boston’s second line.

Last season, the Bruins second line of Bergeron, Marchand and Tyler Seguin had 17 goals and 38 points in 17 games over the first two months of the season, even though games weren’t played until the 19th day of January. This season the trio of Bergeron, Marchand and Eriksson have 17 goals and 39 points through October and November, but that’s through 27 games with injuries and lineup shuffles mixed in as well.

Eriksson was actually Boston’s leading point guy in the month of November with three goals and 11 points in 17 games, but the B’s No. 2 line hasn’t been anywhere near the offensive force that it’s been in the past few years. Plenty of that is due to Seguin’s speed and explosive offensive abilities getting shipped to Dallas over the summer, but it’s also clearly about real offensive struggles from last year’s leading scorer in Marchand.

While the numbers are one way of telling the story, the eyeballs have their own way of detailing things.

Bergeron’s offensive numbers are down slightly from where they’ve been the last few years, but he’s bringing the same thing to the table that he always does: offensive and defensive consistency, the ability to make plays when they’re out on the ice to be made and a calming presence on the ice. Marchand isn’t bringing the same emotional level to the table every night, and that inconsistency is making the Bruins a lesser team without his agitating, buzzing presence making the opponent feel him every shift that he’s out on the ice. Eriksson gets a pass because it was his first game in Montreal at the Bell Centre, and the whole experience seemed a bit overwhelming for a player that’s been much better since returning from the Scott-induced concussion.

But the things that Bergeron/Eriksson/Marchand line showed against Montreal can’t be the norm for the Boston Bruins this season, or changes will most definitely be made at some point by what’s been a patient coaching staff and management.