Haggerty: Bruins show weaknesses in loss

191545.jpg

Haggerty: Bruins show weaknesses in loss

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

TAMPA It never fails that a hockey teams flawsare dutifully exposed once it comes to the playoffs.

Every nightmare, soft spot, Achilles heel, weakness and soft white underbelly was identified within the Boston Bruins, and then came crashing down all around them in the second period of Saturday afternoons 5-3 loss at the St. Pete Times Forum. The defeat leaves the Bruins and Bolts tied at 2-2 apiece in the best of seven conference finals.

The Bruins entered the middle 20 minutes of the game confidently nurturing a three-goal lead and it appeared Boston was about to wrap their gloved hand around the series.

The ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals would have been all but punched.

But instead it was the Bs that got punched in the headover and over again.

Patrice Bergeron is nothing if not a realist, and he wasnt pulling any of his uppercuts after watching the roof cave in on his team after building an all too familiar 3-0 advantage.

The fact it was certified Bruins Killer Simon Gagne just made it all the more eerily similar to the Black and Gold.

Youve got to clean your memory, but at the same time youve got to realize that youve got to execute and be better. That wasnt good enough out there today, said Patrice Bergeron, who actually was good enough in scoring a pair of goals and serving as the only Bs player to win more than 50 percent of his face-offs. But at the same time we cant feel sorry for ourselves. Its a long series and theyre a good team. But so are we. We need to go back what was giving us success.

We got on our heels, we stopped playing and we stopped fore-checking. It was a terrible second period and we have to be better. Going into the third period we were lucky that it was even.

It all started with the bugaboo thats been bugging the Bs all playoffs and really has been a big honking issue since the start of the season.

The Bruins are 4-for-52 on the power play in the postseason, and they managed only two shots while totally wasting two straight PP chances at the beginning of the pivotal second period.

The piggyback power plays on a roughing call to Steve Downie and a goaltender interference infraction on Simon Gagne handed Boston their chance to show off some killer instinct but the Bruins couldnt land that fourth goal that would have truly shut down the Lightning.

The Bs lost some momentum in the power play failures, but things didnt truly break down until Tim Thomas suffered a brain cramp amidst some heavy pressure from the Bolts. With both Ryan Malone and Steve Downie converging behind the net, Thomas played a puck and left it for Zdeno Chara to get immediately crunched as the Bs goalie scrambled back toward the crease.

That led immediately to a Teddy Purcell goal in front of the net, and then a minute later Purcell beat a frazzled Thomas high to his glove hand for his second score that all but erased Bostons lead.

That led to another longtime fly in the Boston ointment: the coaching.

Claude Julien does a lot of things well in creating a disciplined, stable hockey environment for players to thrive in, but the game quickens on him at the worst possible times.

That happened again in the second period following Purcells second goal when Julien had a chance to call timeout, gather his goaltender and players around him and allow them to settle everything back down.

Instead the momentum kept building for the Lightning and Julien did nothing to inject himself into proceedings as his team literally melted on the Florida ice. The two teams played on and Kaberles weak turnover two minutes later made it a tied hockey game while the reeling Bruins attempted to find their footing.

The Lightning tied the game in 3:58 of ice time and the Bruins were never the same again.

After they scored a few goals, we almost looked like we were paralyzed out there, said Julien. We just werent reacting, we werent moving and it just snowballed from there.

Certainly sounds like a good time for a little coaching tactic to break up that paralysis, didnt it Claude?

The final two goals highlighted another season-long boondoggle for the Bruins: the Kaberle disaster.

Bostons much-maligned defenseman followed up a pair of promising efforts with one of his worst of the season in only 11:35 of ice time. Kaberle was weak on the puck and a hockey lamb to the slaughter when Sean Bergenheim dislodged possession from him and pushed it past Thomas to tie the game.

Then Kaberle was part of the problem again on the game-winning goal. Both Thomas and the Bruins defenseman couldnt get on the same page following a brutal Milan Lucic turnover at the blue line that capped off a horrendous day for Bostons top forward group.

The goalie thought Kaberle would block anything at the bottom of the ice if a shot came through, but the Bruins defenseman didnt absorb any part of the Gagne bid that eventually slid right through Thomas pads for the difference-making score.

None of it should be all that surprising with Kaberle at this point.

Kaberle has been atrocious on the power play, and is now tied with a guy thats played only two playoff games (Shane Hnidy) for the fewest hits on the Bruins (one) this postseason a real indictment of how soft serve Kaberles game is during the hardened postseason.

On Gagnes shot I read that the D had low and I high, and he was able to get it through both of us, said Thomas, trying his best not to throw the embattled Kaberle under the Bs bus. It is what it is now. It wasnt on purpose, but they started playing the way they wanted to play and we didnt play the way we did in the first period or during Game Three.

The good news for the Bruins after this debacle had concluded: the series is only tied at 2-2 and the Bs again hold the home ice advantage in whats become a best-of-three match against the Bolts.

Thomas had a game to forget on Saturday afternoon, but he was brimming with Messier-esque confidence when asked how he sees the series eventually going after six or seven games.

Yeah. Were gonna win, said Thomas. I dont know how its going to be at any one point in time or any one game, but whats important is we come back in Game 5 and win that game.

Thomas cocksure bravado is admirable, but it better be flawless hockey the Bs goaltender has in mind if hes going to help carry his club where they want to go.

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

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

penguins_guentzel_052917.jpg

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Morning Skate: No surprise cheap-shot artists are running wild

cp_morning_skate-.jpg

Morning Skate: No surprise cheap-shot artists are running wild

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while hoping everybody on this Memorial Day takes some time to appreciate all of those that made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. We should also take a moment to say thanks to people like the three heroes in Oregon that stood up to a hateful bigot earlier this week, and in doing so reaffirmed what the majority of people living in the US believe we are all about while trying to live up to that ideal every day.
 
-- A number of NHL legends are shaking their heads at the dirty play that we’re seeing in these playoffs, particularly those plays targeting the superstars that people pay big money to see in the postseason. Why should anybody be shocked by this? The rooting out of enforcers, and fighting, has taken accountability out of the game for the cheap-shot artists and dirty players, and leaves little real deterrant for players looking to take out opponents with dangerous plays. I wrote about this a couple of years ago when the NHL threw the book at Shawn Thornton for going after Brooks Orpik, and in doing so chose to protect somebody trying to hurt opponents (Orpik) and punish somebody trying to protect his teammates (Thornton). It was a sea change for the league, and something players didn’t forget as more and more enforcers were quickly weeded out of the NHL. This is what the rule-makers and legislators wanted, and now it’s what they’re getting just a couple of years later with dangerous stick-work, cheap shots and a general lack of respect for fellow players.
 
-- Here's why the Tampa Bay Lightning would consider trading a player like Jonathan Drouin, and the major impact that could have on the offseason trade market.
 
-- Down Goes Brown has a Stanley Cup Final rooting guide for the other 28 other fan bases now that Nashville and Pittsburgh are in the final series.

-- So which goaltender has the edge in the Stanley Cup Final: Nashville's Pekka Rinne, or Pittsburgh's two-headed monster of Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury?
 
-- Scotty Bowman says winning back-to-back Stanley Cup titles has become monumentally difficult since the advent of the salary cap.
 
-- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are pushing each other to be betters, and showing exactly how a team should be led by its superstars in the salary-cap era for the league.
 
-- For something completely different: We can confirm through this report that a lot of hot dogs are eaten in the summertime. So glad we have people to research these kinds of things.