Haggerty: B's not good enough to take East

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Haggerty: B's not good enough to take East

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

NEW YORK In the end the Bruins are going to get exactly what they deserve.

Thats hockey justice, and thats how it should be.

The Bruins won the Northeast Division for the second time in three years, and wiped the floor with the dreaded, despised Canadiens in their final emotional meeting on home ice this season.

Even better, the Bs enjoyed knuckle-busting, Big Bad Bruins-style wins over the Thrashers, Stars and Habs in victories that highlighted the regular season, and unified the team.

But the Black and Gold didn't maintain that pedal-to-the-medal consistency, too often flubbing away chances with a lack of focus or inability to deliver the killer punch. It prevented them from claiming true Eastern Conference elite status, and it was symbolized by a gruesome third period at Madison Square Garden on Monday night. The B's -- who once held a 3-0 lead in the game -- surrendered three third-period goals, lost to the Rangers 5-3 and, in the process, all but guaranteed they won't climb into the first or second seed in the East.

The Bs had some compelling crescendo moments during the regular season and still should be considered in the conversation for Stanley Cup-worthy teams given the wide-open Eastern landscape.

But they never did quite enough to become the top dog, and now that chance has gone by the boards with less than a week of regular-season games remaining.

When youre up 3-0 it doesnt matter what stage of the season theyre in or were in, said Dennis Seidenberg, in a lament that could transfer over to a good-but-not-great regular season. Youve just got to do your job.

Their lack of elite-ness was hammered home with an exclamation point as the Bruins surrendered five consecutive goals after building up a 3-0 lead, and coughed up three scores to the Ranges in a third period thats been their domain all season.

Thats what we learned tonight, said coach Claude Julien. If we dont respect the game plan, then thats what will happen. There were a lot of breakdowns in the third. Our defensemen got caught out of position a lot tonight, and obviously there a couple of goals that goalie Tim Thomas would like to have back.

Up-front we were okay for the first 30 minutes, but then we stopped play and got cute. When you get cute thats what happens. Its a disappointing loss, but you hope your players walk out of here feeling like theyve learned something.

A Boston victory would have pushed the Bs to within two points of both the Flyers and Capitals with three games remaining, and the Bruins set to face East patsies in the Isles, Senators and Devils. Good teams dont melt under pressure or make uncharacteristic mistakes when things get a little intensified, but thats exactly what happened in front of a New York crowd thirsting for the playoffs.

The Bs floundered amid dopey penalties, blown defensive assignments and some weak-sauce offensive possessions, and have blown any realistic chance of catching up to both teams with only three games left.

After a dominant first period that saw the Bs outshoot the Blueshirts by a 19-6 margin and utilize goals from Daniel Paille and Nathan Horton to cobble together a 2-0 lead, the Bs immediately backed off once Chris Kelly made it 3-0 in the second period.

The gritty, relentless offense lost its teeth. Thomas looked all too human roaming out of position and letting pucks get past him. The defense appeared tired, weak, confused and soft. The Bs have proudly thumped their chest about leading the NHL in goal differential during the third period this season, but they were outplayed and outshot by a 12-7 margin over the final 20 minutes of swarming Rangers.

Dennis Seidenberg appeared to have been fitted for concrete boots on his feet. Zdeno Chara was flat outplayed by Rangers defenseman Marc Staal. And on the game-tying goal, Tomas Kaberle vacated the front of the net to guard the invisible man and allowed Brandon Dubinsky to creep onto the doorstep.

That doesnt even count the second-period penalties for David Krejci, when he decided he didnt like how rough Dan Girardi was being with him. In fact, if anything came to light in Monday nights game, it was that the Bruins defensemen could learn a thing or two by watching Staal and Girardi physically dominate play at both ends of the ice.

We got up 3-0 and . . . I dont know. We were taking it to them and then we just back off for a while, said Thomas. Our plan was to come out in the third and turn it around, but as you could see thats not what happened.

They were desperate and they got us to play the game the way they wanted us to in our own zone.

Instead of authoring a resounding victory that could have helped vault them toward the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference, the Bruins are stuck fast at the No. 3. After another loss to the scrappy Rangers, the Bs will have to hope the Blueshirts cant climb all the way up to the six spot for a first-round date.

Its become clear that the strong, tough, blue-collar Rangers -- armed with enthusiastic shot-blockers and a world-class goaltender would be the most difficult first-round match for the Bs. The Bruins have size, strength and experience advantages over their other potential opponents (Canadiens, Sabres, Hurricanes), but not so much over New York. The Rags took the season series by a 3-1 count, and outscored the Bs 11-8.

The third-period meltdown was the latest indignity, but the Rangers have consistently been a tough draw for Boston over the last three seasons. Unfortunately for Boston, New York drew into a tie with the Canadiens for the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference and appears to be on a first-round collision course with the third-seeded Bruins.

Had the Bruins managed to stay in the hunt for the No. 1 seed, they could have had a first-round meeting with the injury-depleted Habs or the physically and emotionally drained Sabres. But they've lost control of their destiny after one too many careless losses.

Julien said he hoped his team had learned its lesson about going away from the game plan following the stunning Monday night loss to New York, but that's impossible to assume. If the Bruins haven't learned this lesson yet, what makes anyone think they've learned it now?

They lacked that killer instinct too many times during the regular season, which is why they're not going to finish atop the Eastern Conference. The No. 3 seed certainly isnt anything to scoff at, but it could have been so much more.

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

Coyotes hire Craig Cunningham as scout

Coyotes hire Craig Cunningham as scout

The Coyotes have hired former player Craig Cunningham as a pro scout, keeping the 26-year-old in hockey after a cardiac episode ended his playing career this season. 

Drafted by the Bruins in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, Cunningham played 34 games for Boston over parts of two seasons before he was waived and claimed by Arizona. He totaled 19 games for the Coyotes, but served as captain of the Tucson Roadrunners, the team’s AHL affiliate. 

Cunningham was hospitalized after he collapsed during pregame warmups on Nov. 19. He was kept alive by continual CPR, but had his lower left leg amputated the next months due to an infection from the episode. 

Known as a high-character player who was popular with his teammates, Cunningham’s transition to scouting lets him further his career after a scary break. 

"I'm very excited to begin the next chapter of my life with the Coyotes," Cunningham said in a statement released by the team. "I'm very grateful to John Chayka, Dave Tippett, the Coyotes and Roadrunners organizations, and all of the great fans across Arizona for the incredible support I've received over the past year. I'm looking forward to helping the Coyotes and I can't wait to get started in my new role."

Said Chayka, the team’s general manager: ”We're thrilled to have Craig join our hockey operations department as a pro scout. Craig was a smart, hard-working player with an incredible passion for the game. We're confident that he will bring those same qualities to the Coyotes in his new role and that he will be an invaluable asset to our organization. We look forward to Craig helping us in several areas and are excited that he is staying with the club."
 

Morning Skate: Overreacting to the Oilers' window

Morning Skate: Overreacting to the Oilers' window

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while really enjoying what the CW does season in and season out with the Flash.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Don Brennan says that the Senators fans not showing up for Game 6 is their way of sticking it to Sens owner Eugene Melnyk.

*The talk is turning to the next captain of the Buffalo Sabres, and what they can do to help open up communication up and down the roster.  

*A guy that wore a Habs toque on his twitter avatar writes a glowing, praise-filled article about the performance of PK Subban during these Stanley Cup playoffs. He’s undoubtedly been good, but he just might have been wearing his Montreal Canadiens footie pajamas when he wrote this one, and rattling his fist at Habs management all the while.

*Interesting piece by Jason Gregor about the “window to win” for the Edmonton Oilers, and an odd notion that the window will close when Connor McDavid has moved out of his entry level contract. I’d say that’s kind of ludicrous.

*The Colorado Avalanche coaching staff has been let go after last year’s dreadful season, and that’s too bad for a really good guy in former Providence College head coach Tim Army. I’m sure he won’t be out of work long.

*Colin White made his Stanley Cup playoff and NHL debut for the Ottawa Senators in Game 6, and helped push Ottawa to a Game 7. It will be interesting to watch the Massachusetts native and former Boston College standout develop with the Senators as White was one of the players that the Bruins skipped over to instead draft Jake DeBrusk and Zach Senyshyn in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft. The others, Mathew Barzal, Travis Konecny and Kyle Connor, are all either in the NHL or knocking on the door as well, and it’s going to be a challenging road for both of Boston’s forward prospects to live up the justification of the B’s drafting them first. Granted DeBrusk and Senyshyn are also both doing their thing for the P-Bruins as they push into the conference finals of the Calder Cup playoffs, and they’re both bright prospects in their own right. It’s going to take years to determine the rights and wrongs of that first round, but White getting into the lineup for the Senators is proof of just how high that organization is on him.

*Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan says that Sidney Crosby handled the targeted abuse well from the Senators in a Game 6 loss that will push to a Game 7 between the Penguins and the Senators.

*For something completely different: A great message from Brookline homey and former Sox GM wonder boy Theo Epstein in his commencement address to Yale University.