Haggerty: Bruins come out flat and never recover

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Haggerty: Bruins come out flat and never recover

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Its never a satisfactorynight in Bruins-land when the postgame conversation in the dressing roomturns to passengers or whether guys are going.

But, alas, that was their fate Thursday night, when they blew two one-goal leads and wound up losing thethird period, which normally has been theirwinning playgroundthis year. There were some close calls with pucks they couldn't quite get past Sabres goalie Ryan Miller and even a post struck, but the result was much more about bad energy than bad bounces.

From start to finish, I dont think theres much to say here except that we were totally flat tonight -- from the first player to the last, said coach Claude Julien. So its not about pointing to one or pointing to the other. We came out flat tonight and never seemed to find our game.

Even in the third period, you are coming in there tied and you got an opportunity, twenty minutes, to seal your fate. It just wasnt happening tonight.

Mark Recchi is usually the conscience of the team in moments of strife and struggle, and that was the case againin the wake of their first flat-line effort since getting embarrassed in the third period against Montreal at the Bell Centre.

Maybe it was the tired legs after playing their seventh game in a staggering 11-day span, which included some travel as well, or maybe it was simply underestimating a Buffalo team that appears to be playing out the string while testing Millers endurance for consecutive games.

But whatever it was, it wasnt a very Bruins-like effort on a night when the Canadiens were off and the Bs lost a chance to do some damage with one of the games in hand they've holding over the Habs.

We didnt have everybody going and thats what happens when you dont have everybody going, said Recchi. And when we got twenty people going, were just really tough to play against.

When we dont have everybody going on all cylinders and competing at the level we should, you know it just makes it hard for us. And I think we know that and weve been a lot better at it lately and more consistent and we just have to keep learning from these ones that when we do have these, that theres reasons why.

Who wasnt going in an effort Julien called flat, from the top to the bottom of the Boston roster? So glad you asked. Lets do a roll call:

A confidence-challenged Nathan Horton, who has only one goal in his last 18 games, continues to miss on golden chances and pass up Grade A scoring opportunities which would have most natural-born goal-scorers salivating. Horton was stuffed on a breakaway opportunity in the first period off a great lead pass from Marc Savard, and he turned into the passive version of himself shortly afterward for the rest of the night. Never was it more evident than during a first-period sequence when Savard flipped a pass to Michael Ryder in the slot, who then redirected the puck to Horton wide open in the left faceoff dot. But Horton decided to try and pass back to Ryder, and the play was broken up rather than giving the Bruins the scoring chance they had earned.

Its clear to Hortons teammates that he needs a slump-buster of some kind.

He battling with his confidence right now, and that stuff happens, said Recchi. What he really needs is one of those dirty ones. He needs a puck to go off his ass and go into the goal. Something like that, and then that old confidence will come back. Because hes getting the chances and its all there for him right now.

Credit Horton for standing in front of the net and creating the screen that allowed Dennis Seidenberg to score the games first goal, but it was also Hortons giveaway on a weak play that set up Cody McCormicks first goal for the Sabres.

Then theres David Krejci, who registered a single shot in 16-plus minutes of ice time and is saddled into a slump that has many wondering if hes simply playing through an injury of some kind. Krejci had the burst of skating speed on a couple of occasions that would make one think he's feeling okay, but hes also managed only 12 shots on net in 11 January games while putting up five assists and a minus-2.

Krejci has been the ultimate passenger over the last few weeks after looking like hed become Bostons No. 1 center in the opening weeks of the season, and he became a spectator on the third period when he was on the ice. His linemates have to be factored in, as well. Theres no doubt pairing Krejci with a still-learning Tyler Seguin has slowed some of his offensive progress, and Milan Lucic was another non-entity in his third game from an upper body injury on the other side of the Bs center.

But its clear Krejci isnt bringing much, and hes lagging far behind Patrice Bergeron and Savard in terms of making plays.

No hits from Lucic, who has talked a good game about returning to the physical roots that help unlock his game. But talk is cheap and the results werent there for Lucic and Krejci a pairing of players who are still trending downward despite their importance to the Bs success.

At least one frustrating goal surrendered by Tuukka Rask in an off night. He punched the ice after Nathan Gerbes game-tying goal in frustration a sign that he was mad at himself for committing so strongly toward a Tyler Myers shot on the right side of the ice before the Buffalo defensemen moved it cross-ice to Gerbe.

I think it was a struggle, said Rask. I think I obviously could have stopped all four of them. Not that I really had a chance. I played bad, not the greatest game, but it just happens, you know?

A rare off night for many of the young Bruins players that have been so good. Seguin hit the bench in the third period during one of his lesser performances during a better month of January. Brad Marchand had three giveaways as he didnt manage the puck well and really didnt contribute in any other area aside from decent penalty-killing. Steve Kampfer had a couple of difficult giveaways in his own zone, and was caught deep in the offensive end on a pinch during Buffalos final goal that put things out of reach.

Recchi has seen many young players come and go, and he knows the mental battles that must be waged before any youngster can achieve consistency in the NHL.

Its learning to be a pro, said Recchi. But its more of a mental challenge than it is anything. Most young players have played 70-something games in juniors, so maybe you get away with a little bit more. You just cant get away with it in the NHL. You should want to compete every night. Not wanting to let down your teammates -- thats the biggest thing. And you learn that . . . youre not going to feel good. First of all, youre going to feel good maybe 30 out of the 82 games, and the rest of them are mental games where you got to be mentally strong to battle through things. Do the right things for your teammates and if you do those then youll become a good pro and a consistent pro. Youll become more of a consistent player that people can rely on. The good news: The Bruins go right back to work on the road against Colorado and Los Angeles this weekend to get things back on the winning track.

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

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

The mission for the Bruins on their four-game road swing through the West Coast is certainly to keep the momentum going, but it’s also to quell any talk that the positive results will be short-lived following the coaching change.

The Bruins won there first three games interim head coach Bruce Cassidy headed into the five-day “bye week”, and they’ll come out on the other side with a potentially dangerous road swing through California that will finish up in Dallas next weekend. 

The Black and Gold have gone into death spirals before on the Cali trip, so that’s always a danger when going coast-to-coast to face tough teams in the Sharks, Ducks and Kings.

There’s also the fact that NHL teams are 3-10-2 as of Saturday afternoon in the first game coming back from the five-day midseason vacation. That means the B’s are going to face a stiff uphill battle on Sunday night against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks. 

The challenge is going to be there for the Bruins to answer all of those challenges when they’ve shrunk away from such adversity most of the season. It gives the Bruins yet another chance to show that the three games aren’t merely a sugar-high after cages had been rattled and is instead something that Boston sustains over the season’s final two-plus months.

“Our thinking is to try to win every game. We know the standings. We know it’s pretty tight. We put ourselves in some of the games in tough situations. Now, we’ve got to climb up and fight for every point,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s going to be very important that we do that and play that way until the end.

“We can look at the standings as much as we want. I think that we really have to focus on how we play, how we want to go into every game, and what we can do to get as many points as possible.”

The good news for the Bruins is that the teams chasing them in the standings really haven’t gained ground on them, and they enter Saturday still in a playoff spot. So, the mathematics don’t look as dire for Boston as they did going into their rest period, and now they should be energized, recharged and highly motivated headed into the final 24 games of the season.

There’s also the fact that the Bruins were playing exciting, aggressive and winning hockey due to some of the tweaks made by Cassidy after taking control of the team. He finally got some production from the third line after putting forwards Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes together, a combo he never truly gave a look because he didn’t trust them to do the job defensively. Cassidy immediately placed 21-year-old Peter Cehlarik into a top-six role with power-play time straight from the AHL. That’s something one almost never saw happen with rookies and inexperienced guys during Julien’s run.

The B’s defensemen corps scored four goals in the three wins and showed aggressive, timely risk-taking to produce offense when playing it safe was normally the call of the day under Julien. The forwards were avoiding the low-to-high passing to the point that so often resulted in perimeter shots from the Bruins in the offensive zone, and instead attacked the net down low with the forwards looking to put some anxiety into the opponent’s D-zone coverage.

It all worked and it all looked remarkably different from the way the Bruins played in the opening 55 games.

“It’s something we need to bottle up and not change our approach, not change what we’re doing, make sure we’re moving [during the bye] and not just sitting idle and getting rusty,” said David Backes last weekend headed into the bye. “Make sure that mentally, we can have those same sort of mindsets for every guy to be contributing. It’s something that doesn’t show up on the score sheet, but guys are recognized in here for doing those things and that’s winning culture. That’s what we’re building.”

The Bruins now get their chance to prove this is a permanent change to a winning culture rather than a short term, three-game adrenaline rush after watching their longtime coach get fired. It won’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be for the Black and Gold if they’re finally going to earn their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in three seasons. 

Saturday, Feb. 18: NHL more likely in Seattle than NBA?

Saturday, Feb. 18: NHL more likely in Seattle than NBA?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while hoping that Purple Passion doesn’t try the same comeback as Zima.

*A Seattle investor says that an NHL team coming to that city is much more likely than a return by the NBA to the Pacific Northwestern city.

*Gare Joyce writes eloquently about the loneliness of a hockey scout, and how that world can sometimes come to a crashing halt.  

*Good piece from Arpon Basu giving the sights and sounds of Claude Julien’s second stint behind the bench with the Montreal Canadiens.

*The agent for Russian player Maxim Shalunov says there is a “10 percent chance” that he’s going to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks.

*Mike Babcock says not to expect any big trade deadline deals from the Toronto Maple Leafs as they push for a playoff spot.

*Henrik Zetterberg reflects on a difficult season with the Detroit Red Wings where it looks like things might finally come down to a crashing halt.

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/nhl/red-wings/2017/02/17/red-wings-zetterberg-reflects-tough-season/98064530/

*The Minnesota Wild have underrated depth on their team, and the Hockey News says it might just be their scariest attribute.

*For something completely different: as referenced above, it looks like that Zima drink of the 1990s is trying to make a comeback. I was in college when the Zima people were seemingly flooding campuses with advertising and samples back in the day.