Haggerty: Canucks can match Bruins' strength


Haggerty: Canucks can match Bruins' strength

By JoeHaggerty

VANCOUVER One thought must have become quite apparent to the Bruins amid the final 20 minutes of Game 1 against the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final:

They arent in the Eastern Conference anymore.

That much was clear to coach Claude Julien once the ice chips settled and his Black and Gold skaters had been worn down in three periods of hustling, dead-even hockey that ended with one ill-timed Johnny Boychuk gaffe of aggression late in the third period.

The Bruins have met their five-on-five match in a Vancouver team that seems to do everything well.

It was pretty simple, said Julien. I think they beat us at the five-on-five game last night. I think our special teams were good if not better than theirs, to be honest with you. We had more scoring chances on our power play. Our penalty kill did a great job against a pretty potent power play. Special teams was not an issue, but five-on-five they were no doubt a better team.

The Bruins had battled, muscled and simply overpowered their way to the Cup final by bludgeoning finesse teams from the East with their 5-on-5 might.

The Game 7 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning serves as perhaps the best example.

It was scoreless heading into the third period, but the Bs were imposing their will and physical style from the moment the referees swallowed their whistles for the night.

That was the inherent advantage the Black and Gold lorded over every team in the East after leading the conference with a plus-51 goal differential in the regular season. It came to the forefront as they romped through a series of flawed teams in the playoffs.

The Flyers were clearly hurting, but the Habs and Lightning were both finesse teams that couldnt match the Bruins once it came down to muscle, might, and bodies mashing together in fits of playoff brutality.

Those teams couldnt hang with the Bruins despite pushing them to seven games on both occasions.

The Canucks? They can certainly hang.

There was a perception Vancouver was cut from the same dainty cloth as the Habs and Bolts, and was just another skilled, finesse team the Bruins would drive through with their Black and Gold bulldozer.

But thats far from the five-on-five truth. Ryan Kesler gives Vancouver plenty of fighting spirit on the ice, and energy players like Raffi Torres, Kevin Bieksa and Alex Burrows bring a little snarl to go with Vancouvers obvious skill.

"Both power plays kind of wiped each other out in Game 1. Five-on-five there were spurts I thought we played well and spurts where they took the play to us, said Chris Kelly. Obviously they were the best in the league during the regular season for a reason. Most of the game is five-on-five, and if we think its going to be a cakewalk five-on-five against them then wed be fooling ourselves. We definitely dont think that.

The Canucks are a team built on speed and skill with the Sedin twins bringing their special brand of playmaking to the mix. But they were also a plus-71 goal differential during the regular season, and every bit Bostons match when it comes to five-on-five play and heaviness on the puck.

There are no 6-foot-9 behemoths on skates on the Vancouver roster, but they wont be overwhelmed by the Bruins as many other teams have this postseason. The Canucks matched every punishing lick thrown by the Bruins in Game 1, and even gnawed on the fingers of the Big Bad Bruins when opportunity presented itself.

It was even-handed hockey game in many ways, but with the possibility looms that Vancouvers high-wattage power play could explode at any time.

It was kind of a back-and-forth game, said Andrew Ference. We had sections where we had decent pressure and chances. They obviously had the same thing where they had blocks of time with great pressure against us. It was obviously a give and take game and the closeness of the score said that.

If you go into a series expecting that youre going to have great control of all the games then youre kidding yourselves. Its how you weather it and minimize teams having that advantage. I dont think there were huge blocks of game where they controlled it.

The Bruins know they played a good game against the Canucks in Game 1, but thats not nearly good enough to beat a hockey club without any discernible weakness to exploit.

There were a lot of good things, said Mark Recchi. Number one: the way that the guys just handled the big stage. For most of the guys it was their first game in the Stanley Cup Final. I think our special teams were good. We handled that well. But five-on-five weve got to be a lot better.

Usually, the Bruins are the better team five-on-five, but when it comes to their matchup with the Canucks, even strength looks to be just that. Even.

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

Tuesday, Jan. 24: Crosby, Matthews top coaches' poll

Tuesday, Jan. 24: Crosby, Matthews top coaches' poll

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while rooting for “Manchester By the Sea” to upset some favorites at the Oscars.

*Sidney Crosby and Auston Matthews top the annual NHL coaches' poll produced by TSN Insider Bob McKenzie.

*The oral history of Fox’s glowing puck used for the NHL during their run with the league is an entertaining one.

*Mike Babcock gives pep talks to the reporters along with his own players while running the show in Toronto.

*The Vegas Golden Knights are moving forward with their timetable toward hiring a coach with some good candidates out there now, and some other ones potentially available soon. I’ve wondered if Claude Julien would be interested in that spot if he’s let go by the Bruins this season, but the one sure thing is that he wouldn’t be out of work long if he is relieved of his duties.

*Claude Giroux needs to start playing a little more fearlessly and without dwelling on mistakes, according to his general manager.

*Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill doesn’t believe that fancy stats and analytics have had a major impact on the way the Wings do things.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the rundown on a Millenial’s dream of performers at the 2017 NHL All-Star Game: Nick Jonas, Fifth Harmony and Carly Rae Jepsen.

*For something completely different: keeping an eye on the notion that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is going to run for President.



Julien: 'The less said and the more shown' is good for Bruins right now

Julien: 'The less said and the more shown' is good for Bruins right now

BRIGHTON, Mass – Claude Julien met with the media after Tuesday’s morning skate and there was a bit of a long pause between questions at one point early in the session.

“I understand because everything that needs to be said has already been said, right?” cracked the longtime Bruins bench boss, who was in good spirits after morning skate despite the turmoil around him.

It’s clearly less about words and more about results right now for a struggling team that’s lost a season-worst four games in a row in gut-punching fashion and has fallen out of a playoff position despite teams above them, Ottawa and Toronto, holding five games in hand on them. 

The Bruins are in a freefall at the worst possible time and at this point, Julien wants to see positive action and winning results from his team rather than the empty talk with the media.

“We want to respect our game plan, execute it well and that normally helps you. We’ve been a little bit all over the place, especially in the last game,” said Julien. “That’s what we addressed yesterday, moving forward.

“I haven’t used the All-Star break as a motivation. We’re basically looking at these last two games, and what we have to do in these last two games. I think we’re well aware of what’s waiting for them after that. The players normally know when the breaks are. That’s not for us right now. I’d like to see our focus on what we need to do [against the Wings] to right the ship. We’ve talked about it a lot, and I think right now the less said, and the more shown is probably the best thing.”

With two games left until the All-Star break, one has to wonder what Julien’s fate will be if the Bruins drop both games to Detroit and Pittsburgh before the group breaks up for All-Star weekend. 

A good showing might be enough to keep Julien calling the shots for the Black and Gold down the stretch this season. But the sense is that more of the same fragile, losing efforts from the Bruins in these final two home dates, a familiar look from this group over the past three seasons, could spell doom for the winningest coach in Bruins franchise history.

One thing is for sure: Words aren’t going to do anything for Julien, and instead it’s about cold, hard results for the coach and the Bruins players who are nose-diving in the middle of the regular season.