Haggerty: Forwards pull disappearing act

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Haggerty: Forwards pull disappearing act

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
VANCOUVER Its not good when you hear passenger talk after a Stanley Cup Finals playoff game.

That was the general message some of the Bruins players were sending after a largely lifeless 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks in Game 5 at Rogers Arena.

Nobody used the word passenger -- a term reserved for those who give something less than 100 percent -- but its clear there was frustration that the Black and Gold have not been able to muster a consistent effort in the three games in Vancouver after dominating on the road all year long.

It seems like we never do things the easy way here, said Michael Ryder. Its always hard. Were a character group and we grind it out. Its all about work ethic and leaving everything we have out there on Monday in Game 6.

The Bruins enjoyed three power-play chances in the first period and got a couple of quality bids by Patrice Bergeron on one of those man advantages, but Roberto Luongo was able to stop Bergeron's first shot and then deflect a follow-up rebound off his blocker.

Other than that quick flurry, the Bruins got a whole lot of nothing out of their forward group in a game that could have given them the lead in the seven-game series.

Whether it was because of the fatigue from cross-country travel, or their inability to drown out the Rogers Arena crowd, or the absence of Nathan Horton, it appeared as though the Bruins' forwards didn't bring the same work ethic that won them Games 3 and 4.

They lost the battle in the faceoff circle, got smacked around (47 registered hits by Vancouver), and they werent willing to pay the price when it came to pressuring Luongo in between the pipes. Rather than stand in front when the shots were being fired from their defensemen, the Bruins' interior players were getting pushed to the side of the net by Vancouver's active defense.

Combined with the Canuck skaters tightening up their gap in the neutral zone, it spelled doom for Bostons offensive push.

It wasn't a good night for our whole team as far as creating good, quality scoring chances, said coach Claude Julien. We had some, but the thing that we need to do a lot better is get to that front of the net.

We had guys, again, there, but on the side of the net. We need to be a little more aggressive in that area than we were tonight. That's so huge for a hockey club and we need that.

Horton, of course, was one of the biggest players the Bruins had for hunting out pucks near the net. But Friday nights Game 5 was the first time Hortons absence from the lineup was so painfully obvious.

The Bs coach attempted to mix-and-match with Ryder, Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin on that top-line right-wing spot in Hortons place, but none of them slotted in as well as Peverley did in Game 4.

Besides Bergeron, who was Bostons best forward with six shots on net, nearly every other center and winger on the Bruins roster could have been classified as a passenger after Game 5. Eleven forwards -- all but Bergeron -- combined for 10 shots on goal. Thats not anywhere close to creating enough offense in a Stanley Cup Finals game.

Ryder, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic were the worst of the bunch. All of them were forces during the games in Boston, but they accounted for exactly zero shots on net Friday night and only Ryder had something approaching a good scoring chance with a shot that rang off the crossbar. Lucic went back to being an invisible man. And not only was Marchand not scoring or playing with speed, he wasnt even doing his duties as Boston's agitator.

The defense was more than passable, shutting down the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler once again, but it got no support on the scoreboard.

I dont know how to explain it, said Lucic. Weve done it the hard way this year and this is something we have to earn. We didnt make the most of this opportunity. But the good thing is that we have another one, and we have to make the most of it.

At times we werent moving our feet and standing still. In Boston we were moving our feet to create speed and we didnt do that enough tonight. In the last five games on the road it seems like we havent had all 20 guys going like we do at home.

Even David Krejci, the Bruins' leading goal-scorer in the playoffs, struggled.

He was given over 20 minutes of ice time during the game and managed only a single shot on net while adjusting to a series of right wingers who couldn't replace the smiling guy who was there all year.

In fact, watching three different players rotating around on the right wing while Julien found a workable combination was reminiscent of last season when there was no suitable replacement for Phil Kessel. Remember how that turned out?

The Bruins have to hope for a different result when they take the ice Monday night for Game 6 in their own building, and then need to devise some kind of offensive game plan that will actually work in British Columbia.

That is, if they're able to force a Game 7.

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