Boston Bruins

Haggerty: B's need to refocus, and fast

191545.jpg

Haggerty: B's need to refocus, and fast

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON While it's impossible to send everyone in the Bruins household an invitation back to Lake Placid to regain their focus, it looks exactly like what the doctor's ordering.

Three major gaffes in the first period turned into three Tampa Bay goals in 85 seconds, putting the B's in a 3-0 hole and leading to a sloppy5-2 loss to the Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday night.

It was a flashback to the series start against the Montreal Canadiens, when the Bs were turning pucks over at a warp speed and taking needless, scary penalties that resulted in needless, self-inflicted wounds.

Furthermore, Claude Julien and the coaching staff had no answers to Tampa Bays 1-3-1 trap. Julien was too slow to make adjustments in the first few minutes of the game when Tampa coach Guy Boucher went away from it, and he clearly didnt want to favor Tyler Seguin despite how effective the rookie looked in his first exposure to a pressure-packed playoff series.

Some of the Bruins weren't as concerned as the score would indicate they should be.

I think we had a good first period. They just scored three goals, said David Krejci, who somehow lost 15 out of his 18 faceoff draws. I dont think they had better chances, or that they played better than us. I really liked the way we played, especially my line. I think we were all over them.

Just some bad breaks, you know. Like I said, give credit to them for burying the chances in the first period.

That attitude's got to change. And quickly.

The Lightning showed Saturday why they're such a dangerous matchup for the B's. Their trap is a nightmare for Boston's offense, and they're an opportunistic opponent that pounces on every mistake with speed and precision.

Montreal posed a similar matchup problem for the B's -- and, don't forget, the Habs pushed the Bruins to seven games -- but Tampa Bay is much better than the Canadiens. Literally every player on the Lightning roster is a scoring threat; 19 different players have ended up on the scoresheet through their 12 postseason games. Worse still: Tampa Bays best players never really got going in the Game 1 win as the role players did the damage.

The really big difference between Tampa Bay and Montreal: The Lightning got a much more committed and cohesiveeffort out of their skaters, and that means smaller stats, like faceoff winning percentage, were a landslide in favor of the Bolts in Game 1.

The Bruins' problems Saturday night were exacerbated by their mistakes. The first three goals they allowed seemed to run the gamut of ways they could shoot themselves in the foot and look nowhere else when it came time for the blame game:

The first goal came after of a couple of defensive hiccups in their own end, punctuated by a bad bounce off Dennis Seidenberg's skate that shot right to Sean Bergenheim when Tim Thomas couldn't freeze the puck.

The second was a softie allowed by Tim Thomas, as Tampa Bays Brett Clark somehow found an opening when he flung a backhanded wrist shot at Thomas' pads. But Clark was also allowed to waltz into the zone with nothing resembling tough neutral zone bite or defensive grit.

The third was the result of the continuing unmitigated disaster Tomas Kaberle has been since he arrived in Boston. He had the puck settled behind his net and was ready for a breakout, but was surprised by uncharacteristic forecheck pressure from the Lightning. He turned it over, and eventually a Teddy Purcell shot caught Thomas snoozing. Worst of all, Kaberle tried to claim after the game was over that he didn't get the puck taken from him -- and instead that it "slipped off his stick." Is there really a difference, Tomas?

I remember one time I came off the ice and I felt good about myself and then . . . boom boom, it's 2-0, said Krejci. It takes a lot of energy out of you and its tough to regroup. You got to stick with it as a team and go out there the next shift and try to get it back, but tonight it didnt happen.

Still, the Bruins have been here before; they lost not just the opener, but the first two games -- at home -- against the Canadiens before rallying. They looked just asragged and slipshod when it came to handling the puck against a speedy team counting on their mistakes.And this time they have an ace in the hole.

Tyler Seguin made his NHL playoff debut against the Lightning and notched two points, including a goal, on three shots in a smidge under 10 minutes of ice time. The 19-year-old said hes been working on taking his shot aggressively to the cage, and he certainly looked every bit the aggressor in Game 1.

They'll need him, and everyone else, Tuesday night in Game 2. They'll also need Julien and his staff to get coaching against Tampa Bay's Guy Boucher, the French-Canadian king of in-game adjustments.

Three weeks ago, a trip to Lake Placid in the middle of the Montreal series refocused the Bruins.

This time, they'll need to do it on their own.

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

Haggerty: Bjork looking like he's ready for his NHL shot

bruins_anders_bjork_092517.jpg

Haggerty: Bjork looking like he's ready for his NHL shot

BOSTON – At this point in training camp with just a couple of preseason games to go, Monday night’s performance might have represented the exclamation point on Anders Bjork’s impressive drive to win an NHL roster spot. The 21-year-old Bjork has scored other goals during this preseason, but Monday night’s tally in Boston’s 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks was his first while skating with prospective linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

“I think we had more ice time together, which helped us get more comfortable and helped me kind of learn their chemistry a bit more,” said Bjork, who finished with 21 goals and 52 points in 29 games for Notre Dame last season. “Obviously, they have a ton of chemistry and they’re very easy to play with, of course, but you know, it’s nice to get more shifts with them and kind of pick up on their patterns and stuff like that.”

In fact, it’s become easy to see Bjork now winning the right wing spot with No. 37 and No. 63 after watching them work together in perfect concert for Boston’s third goal of the night.

Already up by a 2-0 score, Marchand turned over a puck in the Chicago defensive zone while on the forecheck hunt, and managed to work it over to Bergeron for a quick, backhanded saucer pass to the slot area. The alert Bjork stepped up into the high slot and one-timed the puck past Corey Crawford to give the Bruins a three-goal lead on Monday night, and allow all involved a sigh of heavy relief that Boston has found at least one rookie ready to hold down top-6 NHL job.

“He’s got that speed and the smarts to get open and then find the openings in the quiet ice. It was a great play by him just to get open, and for me to see him. He made it really easy,” said Patrice Bergeron. “He skates well, he made some great plays, we just need to keep talking and finding each other more and more on the ice.”

Given the overall scope of Bjork’s performance in camp, his steady presence on a line with Bergeron and Marchand during the preseason and his speedy skill set, the rookie is stating a strong case that he’s ready for NHL prime time. It would be a major training camp shocker to this humble hockey writer if Bjork is anywhere other than in the Bruins lineup when they drop the puck against the Nashville Predators on Oct. 5.  

“Yes, it does [look like Bjork is NHL ready]. The competition will stiffen for him and we’ll keep evaluating that. Still, he’s got skill, speed, and courage. He gets to the dirty areas. He’s hard to play against [and gives] second effort on pucks,” said Bruce Cassidy. “It’s not one-and-done with him. And for a young kid, that’s special, to be able to hang in and there and battle for those turnovers. That’s usually the part of the game they have to continue to grind on them.

“But he’s got a lot of that. Maybe that’s Bergy and March’s influence, I’d like to think they have some of that, because that’s their game. Marchy never quits. Bergy never quits. They’re going to be a hard line to play against if they are that dogged on the puck every shift.”

There are still two preseason games remaining before the real thing, so it makes little sense for the Bruins to pronounce Bjork ready for NHL duty until the time comes. Bjork’s combination of blazing skating speed, decision-making and confident swagger on the ice have pushed him to the top of Boston’s prospect list when it comes to being closest to play in the NHL. All were on display in his 12:48 of ice time with a goal and a plus-1 rating to go along with two shots on net, a hit and a takeaway while playing the fast, aggressive hockey that Boston prefers these days.

Bjork could have even had a second goal after he intercepted an Erik Gustafsson outlet pass, but missed the net high with a shot in close while going for his second goal of the game. All in all, it was another hurdle cleared by a talented Notre Dame standout that certainly feels like he’s destined to make the opening day roster, and equally ordained to start in a top-6 right wing role with arguably the best duo in the entire NHL.

It will be interesting to see just how good Bjork can be on a daily basis at the NHL level, and if he can get into becoming the 20 goals/50 points range player that should be in his future.  

Now it’s up simply up to Bjork to finish up strong in the preseason when he’s paired with Bergeron and Marchand, and continue on the straight-ahead path toward cracking the Bruins roster for years to come. It would appear he’s poised to “pop” in training camp just as Brandon Carlo did a year ago, and stand as one of those talented youngsters ready to help bridge the gap between talented rookies and established core veterans.

CSNNE SCHEDULE