Boston Bruins

Haggerty: Bruins offensive outage taking hold

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Haggerty: Bruins offensive outage taking hold

BOSTON -- If Thursday nights game against the Florida Panthers was used as a temperature check for the Bruins as to whether the team is running hot or cold, things are getting a bit chilly on Causeway Street.

The Bruins could do nothing wrong in November and carried that over into the first two games of December, but theyve now put together back-to-back uninspired offensive efforts in a two-game losing streak. The Bruins hit five posts and missed on a number of early chances to put some goals up on the board, and ended up dropping a 2-0 decision to the Panthers behind a 40-save effort from Jose Theodore.

There were excuses if the Bruins wanted to take the out, but every Bs skater admitted they could have been better in some area or department.

In the end we just didnt bear down hard enough to get lucky for those posts to go in, said Dennis Seidenberg, one of five Bruins to hit the pipe in their defeat. So we just have to be a little bit heavier on our sticks and just bury those chances.

Anytime Theodore stands on his head it conjures up images from fruitless playoff experiences against the Montreal Canadiens, but truth be told this new, improved Panthers team reminds of that first scrappy Bruins team under the watch of Claude Julien. Theyre not the most offensively gifted roster particularly after dealing David Booth to the Vancouver Canucks but they play sound defense under new head coach Kevin Dineen and Craig Ramsay, and they play a hard brand of hockey.

So Theodore and a willing, able Panthers defense that packed tightly around the net deserve credit, but this is more about what the Bruins are suddenly not doing again. Theyve scored one goal in the last 120 minutes against the Jets and Panthers, and theyve gone 0-for-7 while losing the hunger to finish around the net.

Weve had a little bit of a power outage here, said Tim Thomas, who made 28 saves in the loss. But thats to be expected when wed been scoring at as good a clip as we had been.

Milan Lucic had a golden scoring chance in the third period all alone in the high slot, but Theodore made the snapping glove save on the shot. Lucic was shaking his head after the game, but it was indicative of the Florida netminder improving from a bevy of rebounds early in the game.

It was definitely a good save by him. Theodore made a lot of good saves today, said Lucic, whose turnover and passive back-checking ending up leading to Tomas Kopeckys game-winning goal for the Panthers in the third period. For us we have to get back that killer instinct. When we get opportunities to make sure we finish them off and bury them.

Bodies arent willing to step in front of the net on long shots from the point, rebounds are bouncing harmlessly away from the net and the Bruins are getting maddeningly passive when they have the choice to attack the net.

We had about 40 shots on net, but I thought we forced a lot of plays where we could have taken it to the net. I dont think our decision-making was the best at times, said Julien. We certainly didnt make it easy for ourselves. We hit four or five posts. You can say what you want about those, but youve got to find ways to bury goals.

I think weve got to do a better job of that. I dont think that were driving to the net as well as we have in the past. Thats kind of slipped in the last little while, so weve got to try and do that a little bit better. We need to get our noses dirty around the net area again.

The concerning part now is that the Bruins suffered their offensive slowdown with Seguin in the lineup. There was an excuse for the Bs to lollygag in Winnipeg on the second night of back-to-back road games with Seguin chewing dip in the press box with the Bruins coaching staff.

But Seguin was back in the lineup and seemingly heavily motivated to respond after getting scratched by the club, but it seemed like the team took an October-style collective snooze against their closest competition in the Eastern Conference. The loss dropped the Bruins to third in the Eastern Conference with the Bs trailing the upstart Florida club by a single point, but still comfortably within the playoff picture.

Its no wonder the results are different now than the Bs 12-0-1 month of November. The Bruins have become comfortable and complacent with their position in the middle of the pack, and the downside of that cycle is approaching. Lucic finished with two shots on net and a minus-2 in the limp offensive performance, and said its time for the team to get back into the winning mindset that carried them for more than a month.

Weve done a pretty good job getting shots and scoring chances. But thats all they are if you dont get results. I think the main thing right now for us is we cant get down on ourselves; we cant get frustrated, said Lucic. We have to pick ourselves back up and start over again. We have to remember what got us those fourteen wins in fifteen games.

Thats what should be our focus right now and not let frustration creep into our game just because weve had trouble these last two games.

Its only a mini-slump after two games for the Bruins, but they learned full well in October that things can get badly out of hand if they dont reverse trends and put a stop to it. Bostons mission, should they choose to accept it, is to right things and generate some breakthrough offense Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Morning Skate: Star players must get more involved in CBA negotiations to make Olympics a reality

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Morning Skate: Star players must get more involved in CBA negotiations to make Olympics a reality

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling that we’re just now learning about the massive rap skills of the brotherly duo of Andrew and Pete Frates. 

 

*Ken Campbell from the Hockey News says that if influential players, like Connor McDavid, want to go to the Olympics then they need to get more involved in the CBA negotiations

 

*Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang shows what a class act he is by taking the Stanley Cup to a children’s hospital in Montreal.

 

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the Minnesota Wild looking to find long term deals for both restricted free agents Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter. That was pretty clear when they chose to deal off Marco Scandella in order to clear up some cap space to afford both of them. 

 

*The Edmonton Oilers are going to face higher expectations for next season, and are willing to embrace that kind of pressure.

 

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Craig Custance wonders aloud whether there will be any offer sheets coming for restricted free agents. I appreciate Craig wanting to add a little more intrigue to the NHL’s offseason, but it isn’t going to happen as long as GMs are treated like they have small pox once they go that route with an offer sheet. Take a look at the future job prospects for general managers that went with offer sheets in the past, and you’ll see why GMs simply don’t do them. This is why the Bruins are uncomfortable with David Pastrnak sitting unsigned as a restricted free agent, but not overly concerned that he’s going to sign a mega-offer sheet elsewhere.  

 

*The CCM hockey brand is apparently changing hands from its former home at Adidas

 

*For something completely different: Speaking of Pete Frates, MLB has announced a fundraising drive for ALS research in his name. 

Haggerty: Spooner deal represents his last chance with Bruins

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Haggerty: Spooner deal represents his last chance with Bruins

The Bruins and Ryan Spooner wisely came to a contract agreement on a one-year, $2.825 million deal just prior to the start of Wednesday’s arbitration hearing. Don Sweeney hasn’t yet taken a B’s player to arbitration during his three years running the Black and Gold, and it could have grown unnecessarily contentious with a player like Spooner if they’d been forced to point out his flaws as a player in the uncomfortable setting of an arbitration hearing.

“It’s a fair deal for both sides in our opinion,” said Spooner’s agent Murray Kuntz to CSN after the one-year contract had been agreed upon. 

Now that Spooner has been signed to the one-year deal, it represents the last chance for the 25-year-old to show some growth as a player if he wants to be a member of the Bruins for much. Spooner has averaged 12 goals and 44 points over the last two seasons as Boston’s third line center, and has amassed 35 PP points while serving as the trigger man on Boston’s power play from the right-side half-wall. 

But he dropped from 49 points two seasons ago to 39 points last year, and didn’t exactly flourish under the more offensive-minded coaching of Bruce Cassidy. 

Spooner is an excellent special teams player and has been one of the key ingredients in Boston finishing with the NHL’s 7th ranked power play in each of the last two seasons. But he tailed off badly late last season after suffering a concussion, and showed so much tentativeness in his overall game that he became a healthy scratch by the end of Boston’s first round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators. Spooner also continues to sit under a 40 percent success rate in the face-off circle, and shows little consistent interest in winning one-on-one battles anywhere along the ice.

The work on the draws is something, in particular, that comes down to hard work and diligence at practice, and should be an area Spooner can become at least average while practicing every day against a face-off maestro like Patrice Bergeron.  

All of this might be easier to overlook if he consistently utilized his excellent skating speed and considerable skill level to create offense during 5-on-5 play, but that hasn’t been the case enough over the last couple of seasons. A one-year deal for $2.85 gives Spooner one last opportunity to show some growth in those areas with the Bruins, and if he doesn’t then it should be fully expected the Bruins will rekindle trade discussions around Spooner. 

His situation is unmistakable: Spooner isn't going to be a top-6 center with the B's because Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are firmly entrenched at this spots, and Spooner really doesn't have the right skill set to be a fourth line center. So it's third line center or bust for Spooner as the internal competition grows around him. 

Spooner is now 25 years old and should no longer be viewed as a young player that’s still in the development phase. He should be close to a finished NHL product, and may not get demonstrably better in any area of his game if he doesn’t show it this upcoming season. He was one of the main pieces discussed when the Bruins talked trade with the Minnesota Wild prior to them dealing Marco Scandella to Buffalo, and there is clearly trade value for the former second round pick. 

But the Bruins also have a potential third line center replacement in Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson after signing him out of Boston University at the end of last season. Forsbacka Karlsson may need some AHL time to start this season after looking overmatched in his only NHL appearance late last season, but he’s the eventual two-way center replacement for Spooner in the long term. 

Forsbacka Karlsson may not be as fast or as flashy as Spooner, but he projects to be better on draws, better at winning battles and puck possession and better at being more difficult to play against while boasting his own set of offensive skills. 

It’s now up to Spooner to win that training camp competition with Forsbacka Karlsson for his current third line center position, and protect his own spot on the B’s roster by playing like his very job security depends on it. If he doesn’t show that kind of urgency and hop to his game right from the start of training camp, then it’s only a matter of time before he becomes trade fodder at a salary cap number ($2.825 million) that should be easy to move.

It’s no hyperbole to say that Spooner is entering his final chance with the Black and Gold after avoiding arbitration, and it’s wholly up to him to dictate exactly how long it lasts for.