Haggerty: Bruins' top line needs to perform

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Haggerty: Bruins' top line needs to perform

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

VANCOUVER On the surface Bostons top forward line had a pretty solid effort against the flying Canucks in Game One of the Cup Finals.

The Trio of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton combined for 13 shots on net and appeared to be in on the action throughout the first round against Vancouver with a lull from the aforementioned forwards along with the rest of the team in decisive third period of the 1-0 loss at Rogers Arena.

Claude Julien correctly pointed out that the gaudy shot total wasnt reflective of the action on the ice in a general sense, but he easily could have been pinpointing Bostons big line failing to produce anything offensively in their very first try.

We managed 36 shots on net. That's just a number, said Julien. The scoring chances are what you have to look at. I think we can be better in regards to that.

Substitute 13 in for the 36 shots, and you have a valid summation of the first lines efforts amid a rowdy Vancouver atmosphere. A lot of high shot totals, but a real shortage of actual scoring chances.

The passable effort from Bostons top line definitely wasnt intense enough to win a hotly contested Stanley Cup Final game, and the trio knew it after reflecting on select moments from the game.

Checking the game video the next day confirmed it for all three players. The video never lies, and it was telling the Bruins they didnt use their assets properly and didnt always play their game of dump and punishment.

We have to just keep coming at them, said Krejci. We know we have some big forwards and Im sure their D is not happy when we put the puck deep. So we have to do that every single time. Eventually they turn the puck over, make a mistake and then we can make it count.

Its been our game all season. We have big forwards and we need to take advantage of it. Especially during the playoffs when you see these guys so many times, and depending on the day you might see them looking over their shoulder to see whats coming at them. Thats what we want. We want to make that happen.

Its the same feeling Bostons top line felt after disappointing Game One performances against the Canadiens and Lightning, and the reason the Bs fortunes ride heavily on their big offensive guns.

For me it was like the first game against Montreal. We were really excited and maybe even a little too excited, said Krejci. I didnt want to be too excited, but maybe I was and got a little carried away.

I think we tried to, but we didnt try hard enough. We have to get a little closer to the net and stay battling for those loose pucks. There were loose pucks in Game One especially on the PP, but the guys close to the net need to get there when shots are getting through. Maybe we can jump on the loose pucks and get some dirty goals.

The Bruins are 12-1 this postseason when getting at least one point from one of Krejci, Lucic or Horton, and that pattern is likely to repeat itself against a tough customer in Vancouver.

There is still plenty of hockey left, but our line has to score some goals if we want to win games, said Krejci, who fully embraces the responsibility of starting things up with his playmaking abilities. Thats what everybody expects from us, and as players thats what we expect. We have to get some more chances and bury some goals.

The big-bodied Lucic got into some nastiness with Kevin Bieksa and got flipped over on a hip check by Dan Hamhuis, but the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder never mixed it up close enough to the net. Its up to Lucic and the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Horton to bang bodies and create space near the painted area, and it never reached uncomfortable levels for Roberto Luongo when the threesome hopped over the boards.

It starts with physicality and perhaps even a little bullying of the Canucks, and that usually brings offensive results for Lucic and Horton once Krejci has some room to work his hands and playmaking mind.

I think that's what makes our line so productive is that we're just not all about scoring, said Lucic. We can go out there and maybe create momentum off hits and having a strong forecheck . . . doing other things like that.

Krejci is something of a perfectionist in all things, and is never fully happy with his effort no matter what the results say. Thats a good thing after Game One where the Bruins feel like they didnt fully have their feet on the ground. The plans for Krejci and Co. are pretty simple on the top line: generate plays in the offensive end and force the action to players like the Sedin Twins in their own end where they feel a little less sure of themselves.

We just need to be harder on the puck and protect the puck well. We need to take it down low. Weve got to work hard and not try to do too much with it, said Krejci. Weve got to just take it to the net. It might not be pretty goals, but the dirty ones count too. We need to find a way to get them.

Theyre good five-on-five. Theyre fast too and they like to go on rushes into the offensive zone and play a lot with the puck. I think we can take advantage of them, though, the Sedins in these guys. They dont want to play in their zone. I think theyre a minus for the whole playoffs.

Its good that the Bruins feel like they can exploit some of the weaknesses in Vancouvers game. Now its a matter of Bostons big guns going out and proving it before they fall into an 0-2 hole in the Cup Finals theyre not likely to climb out of.

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

Bean: The (incorrect) case for the Bruins signing Kevin Shattenkirk

Bean: The (incorrect) case for the Bruins signing Kevin Shattenkirk

The Bruins should not sign Kevin Shattenkirk. They really shouldn’t. 

Yet they might. Pierre McGuire said on TSN Radio Tuesday that his guess is that Shattenkirk, arguably the best free agent defenseman on the market, will end up in Boston.

It is remarkable how universally against a Shattenkirk megadeal B’s fans have seemingly been. A Twitter poll with over 3,600 votes this month had Bruins fans preferring Boston sign 40-year-old Zdeno Chara to a two-year, $8 million extension than the 28-year-old  Shattenkirk to a seven-year, $45.5 million deal. 

That is obviously the correct conclusion, but considering how hard the false “Chara is old and bad” garbage is pushed in this town, it’s telling that 64 percent would rather he stick around than the team build the defense around Shattenkirk. 

Of course, Shattenkirk is not a bad player just because he’s been overrated in recent seasons. He’s a decent second-pairing defender and strong power play asset who can be penciled in for 40 points a year. The Bruins already have that in Torey Krug, and he makes less than Shattenkirk figures to command. Shattenkirk is also a righty who plays on the right, which is not a need for the Bruins, whereas Krug is a left shot who plays both sides. 

Add in the Bruins’ cap situation due to some bad contracts and they why of Shattenkirk would be a bad signing doesn’t need to be re-hashed. By this point, the explanation’s been given a few times in a few different places. 

So what would the Bruins’ actual case for signing Shattenkirk be? 

TO KEEP IT MOVING 

Last season was encouraging for Bruins fans because it saw them reach the playoffs for the first time in three years while also seeing young talent emerge. Yet they still only made the playoffs by two points, something of which Don Sweeney and Cam Neely are undoubtedly aware. 

So for all the good signs, this could be a fringe playoff team again if more improvements aren’t made, and missing the playoffs for the second time in three years would mark a step back in the eyes of ownership, perhaps putting jobs in danger. It would be a shame if money were spent irresponsibly for the sake of saving jobs, but Shattenkirk would definitely make the Bruins better next season, even if it crippled them financially down the road. 

TO PULL A CHIARELLIAN FREE AGENT SWITCHEROO

With McAvoy set to be a top-pairing player and Brandon Carlo a good second-pairing option, the Bruins do not have a need for a highly paid right-shot defender. That doesn’t mean they don’t have needs elsewhere. 

Last offseason, Peter Chiarelli made the controversial move of trading Taylor Hall, one of the best left wings on the planet. He did it to get Adam Larsson to help build Edmonton’s blue line up, then he went out and signed Milan Lucic in free agency to replace Hall. 

If the Bruins truly have designs on adding Shattenkirk, perhaps they could have something similar in mind: Trade someone like Carlo for either a left-shot defenseman or a left wing, then replace Carlo with Shattenkirk. 

This would still not be financially palatable, however. When the Oilers traded Hall for Larsson, they swapped a player with a $6 million cap hit for a player with a $4.16 million cap hit and replaced the original player (Hall) with a player in Lucic who carried a $6 million cap hit. So essentially they netted one player for an additional $4.16 million. 

Carlo is on his entry level contract, so unless the Bruins traded him for a player on an entry-level deal, they’d be spending a lot of money in any maneuver that involved replacing him with Shattenkirk. 

TO GO ALL-IN ON POST-CLAUDE LIFE

Claude Julien’s detractors lamented his affinity for responsibility. They loved it when Bruce Cassidy was more open to trading chances. 

Well, you like trading chances? Shattenkirk’s your guy. He’s a good skater, a good offensive player and a sub-par defender. You put Krug, Shattenkirk and McAvoy as three of your four top-four defenseman and you’ll be a long way from the days of Chara, Seidenberg and Boychuk, for better or worse. 

BUT, KEEP IN MIND . . . 

They for sure should not sign Kevin Shattenkirk. 

Morning Skate: What does trading a first-rounder get you now?

Morning Skate: What does trading a first-rounder get you now?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading, while wishing that Gordon Hayward and Paul George were already in Boston, like, yesterday.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Freidman gives his 30 thoughts for the week, including the trade value of a first-round pick right now.

*It could that non-unrestricted free agents steal all of the thunder on July 1 with massive contract extensions a la Connor McDavid.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the Detroit Red Wings taking potential fliers on a number of veteran D-men that are out on the free market.

*With free agency right around the corner, the legendary Stan Fischler details the sad end to Bobby Orr’s career in Boston, where he was lied to about the offer extended to him and ended up playing things out with the Chicago Blackhawks in a way that it shouldn’t have gone. The sight of Orr in a Blackhawks sweater is one of the real all-time NHL oddities out there.

*The NCAA is eying college hockey expansion in NHL markets, including the University of Illinois and Pitt, and, from what I’ve been told, perhaps UNLV and maybe even Vanderbilt. This is a great thing for amateur hockey players and anybody that can’t get enough of the game.  

*Ex-Senators defenseman Marc Methot holds no ill will toward the Sens after being dealt from Vegas to the Dallas Stars following his selection in the expansion draft.

*Josh Ho-Sang shares his wisdom to Islanders prospects as a 21-year-old somebody that’s gone through the ups and downs of being in their shoes.

*As we referenced above, Connor McDavid is closing in on a massive contract extension with the Edmonton Oilers that will probably make him the highest paid player in the NHL.

*For something completely different: My heart goes out to this Roslindale family fighting through a situation with a child who has a life-threatening disorder. They have a Go-Fund-Me page, so please give if you can.