Boston Bruins

It's Groundhog Day for Bruins

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It's Groundhog Day for Bruins

MONTREAL It certainly appears the Bruins are locked in the hockey version of Groundhog Day.

They keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Their will to win flags after the slightest hints of adversity early in the game. Their third-period bursts when trying to erase a deficit always seem to come up short.

That doesnt even take into account the brain-dead retaliation penalties they're being lulled into while playing catch-up a key element that helped again sink the Bruins in a 4-2 loss to the Canadiens at the Bell Centre Saturday night.

The loss capped a home-and-home sweep at hands of their arch-rivals and dropped the Bruins to 3-7. The start is the worst by a defending Stanley Cup champion since the Edmonton Oilers won in 1990, and then limped out to a 2-11-2 start to a 1990-91 season that eventually led them all the way to the Western Conference Finals.So there's hope for the B's, but a rough start has become a serious impediment to success in today's NHL.

I believe in this team, said captain Zdeno Chara. "I know that were in a deep hole, but if anybody can get out of it its this team."

Not if they keep following the exact same pattern, night after night after night.

Boston has stormed strongly out of the starting gate more often that not in the first 10 games, but theyve encountered serious difficulties finishing offensive plays.

Sometimes its the inability to hit a wide-open net or finish off a great pass, which was the case with Daniel Paille, Nathan Horton and Chris Kelly early Saturday night.

But more often its been about hitting posts rather than twine. Its what happened in the first period when both a Rich Peverley backhand and a Brad Marchand shot from the high slot dinged off the left post.

Once the Bs came up empty in both golden scoring chances, frustration crept in quickly.

The Bruins started getting out of their flow, both offensively and defensively, and got away from what makes them successful. Mix in a Brian Gionta power-play goal and a Lars Eller scorched strike that opened up when Horton stumbled on the ice, and the Bruins truly started leaking oil.

The frustration brought about the retaliation penalties, and thats when things truly went awry.

We want to be physical, but we have to be smart about it, said Chara. We can't be retaliating like that. Guys dont want to take bad penalties, but thats the way its happening right now. Im sure if you asked them, they would take those things back.

Its okay to play with emotions, but weve got to be smart about it.

For the second time this season the Bruins lost their composure in a game they were trailing that was still winnable. Andrew Ference was lulled into a roughing penalty in the second period while taking a quick punch at Habs defensemen P.K. Subban, who stirred things up with a bump behind the net. That led to a David Desharnais power-play goal and a 3-0 lead for the Habs.

But the Bruins werent done shooting themselves squarely in the foot. Eight minutes later Milan Lucic slashed at Subban when the Habs defensemen started messing with the Bs power forward, and once again the refs caught Bostons return volley.

The slash was less than three minutes after Lucic went upstairs with a wrist shot to put the Bruins on the scoreboard, so it wasn't exactly perfect timing.

Later, Horton put the Canadiens on the power play again when, after a battle in front of the net with Hal Gill, he cross-checked the behemoth blueliner.

We cant retaliate, said Brad Marchand. We have to be able to take it and hurt them on the scoreboard. We have to be better in that area. We know what we have to do to be better. Its just a matter of us finally going out and doing it.

What followed the penalties was the final trait that those around the Bruins have set their watches to this season: the mad, desperate scramble in the third period to make up for the shortcomings of the first 40 minutes.

The Bruins outshot the Habs 12-3 in the final 20 minutes, and even closed it to 3-2 in the final minute when Tyler Seguin stepped through traffic to snap home his team-leading fourth goal after they'd pulled Tuukka Rask for a sixth skater.

But it all turned into another futile third-period push for a Bruins team that isnt consistently playing hard, isnt playing well at all in front of Rask, and still has too many key players like Horton and David Krejci serving more as passengers than active participants.

The lack of urgency was underscored by this stat: Montreal defensemen Gill and Jaroslav Spacek blocked as many shots (12) by themselves as the Bruins did as a team.

Its frustrating to lose. We have some things we have to work on, said coach Claude Julien. When we all get on the same page and we start trusting each other thats when then things are going to get better.

Right now there is some hesitation in their play.

Its up to the coaching staff to monitor those things, and it was eyebrow-raising when Horton was back over the boards for a shift in the third period after mindlessly dropping Gill with a cross-check right in front of the referees.

Horton is the same guy who opened up the mindless penalty floodgates against the Carolina Hurricanes at home earlier this season, and his ice time in the third period shows the players and coaches dont seem to be learning from these troubling trends. Much like Seguins absence during the third period 5-on-3 advantage was underscored when the 19-year-old notched his fourth goal and 10th point later in the period.

So it all begs the question: What can be done about it?

Its difficult to see these Bruins suddenly shaking off the cobwebs and going on an extended winning streak. That means change is likely coming.

Last spring's ride through the NHL playoffs was magical, but far too many players arent playing with the same kind of fervent hunger this season. Winning inevitably brings comfort and can bump egos up a few levels, and that is sometimes when things like discipline, commitment and unselfishness take a little bit of a dip.

At this point, the only players who would appear to be safe are Seguin, Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Tim Thomas. General manager Peter Chiarelli is most definitely working the phones for a deal while his Cup-winning roster still has a sky-high value.

The number of trade calls and their intensity has elevated over the last week as the Bruins have plunged deeper into the post-Cup abyss, and it shouldnt shock anyone if a player or member of the coaching staff is no longer with the team when they suit up Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators.

One has to wonder if Bs president Cam Neely watched the Canadiens improve to 3-0-0 since firing assistant coach Perry Pearn, and wondered if a similar move would have the same kind of wake up effect for his hockey club.

Because the time has come for the Bs to turn it around by any means necessary before its truly too late.

Krug, Forbacka Karlsson suffer upper body injuries vs. Red Wings

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Krug, Forbacka Karlsson suffer upper body injuries vs. Red Wings

BOSTON – The Bruins ended Tuesday night’s preseason home date with another feel-good victory over the Red Wings, but it may have come at a cost.

Both Torey Krug and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson were injured in the second period of the B’s 4-2 win over the Red Wings at TD Garden, and didn’t return to the game. Krug was hit in the face with a puck in the defensive zone during the second period, and quickly exited the ice with Bruins trainer Don DelNegro after the impact of the puck hitting his face initially took his feet out from under him.  

“[Krug] clearly didn’t finish the game, and took a shot up in the facial area,” said Bruce Cassidy of Krug, who had a couple of shots on net in 9:10 of ice time while largely playing with Charlie McAvoy in an offensive-minded pairing. “We’ll probably have an update tomorrow.”

Forbacka Karlsson took a hard tumble into the end boards in the game’s middle period, and never returned after serving up the primary assist on Danton Heinen’s goal earlier in that very same period. JFK tried to return to Tuesday night’s win over the Red Wings, according to Cassidy, but was kept out of the game with an upper body injury that has his status as questionable moving forward.

“He went into the boards late in the second. He’s day-to-day, upper body. I think wanted to – he did come back and try [to return to the game],” said Cassidy of JFK, who put up an assist and a plus-1 rating in 8:37 of ice time before leaving the game. “I don’t think it’s serious, but I can’t speculate. We’ll get another update tomorrow. It didn’t look good, but I don’t think it’s as bad as it looked. We’ll know more [about JFK] tomorrow.”

It certainly sounds like both Krug and JFK could miss a day or two of practice moving forward after the injury wear-and-tear of preseason action, but the hope is that the Black and Gold won’t be missing a couple of key performers for anything more than that.  

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Talking Points: Austin Czarnik puts on a show vs. Red Wings

Talking Points: Austin Czarnik puts on a show vs. Red Wings

GOLD STAR: Austin Czarnik once again showed that he can really put on a show during training camp after winning an NHL job last season based on his strong preseason. Czarnik finished with a goal and two points along with a plus-1 rating in 15:15 of ice time, created a penalty shot situation solely based on his skating speed and perfectly executed a 3-on-1 late in the third period while feeding a one-timer dish to Teddy Purcell for the insurance marker. Czarnik tied David Pastrnak with a team-high four shots on net for the night, and won 8-of-15 draws for the Bruins while manning his natural center position. Czarnik showed once again that he can play effectively when he’s motoring at a high pace and playing aggressive hockey, a couple of things he didn’t always do with the Bruins once the routine of the NHL regular season settled in last year.

BLACK EYE: Brandon Carlo didn’t have a particularly terrible night, but he did end up as the only Bruins player with a negative plus/minus. Carlo was on the ice for both goals scored by Detroit, and otherwise didn’t really factor into the game while clocking in a solid 17:48 of ice time. His only other major contribution was an interference call halfway through the first period that put the Wings on the power play. Carlo was playing without his usual partner, Zdeno Chara, of course, and one of the remaining questions about the 21-year-old D-man is exactly how good he can be as a shutdown defenseman when he doesn’t have the big captain on his left side. Clearly, it was a good night overall for the B’s, but Carlo was far from his best in his preseason debut.

TURNING POINT: Nobody would have blamed the Bruins if they were a little frustrated after outshooting the Red Wings by a 13-8 margin, and not seeing any points up on the board. Instead of getting frustrated they kept working and finally busted through with a pair of goals within 90 seconds of each other in the second frame. Ryan Fitzgerald finished off the first chance off a nice dish from Jakub Zboril, and Danton Heinen followed by banging home a backdoor dish from Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson across the ice. The two goals from two of Boston’s young forward group pushed the B’s out to a lead that they would never relinquish against Detroit.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jakub Zboril probably hasn’t received some of the fanfare of the other first-round picks in Bruins camp, but the skilled, improving D-man played an excellent first preseason game for the Black and Gold. It was Zboril’s one-man rush from his defense position that helped set up his creative dish to a wide-open Ryan Fitzgerald for Boston’s first goal, and he followed that up with 19:12 of mostly solid ice time. Zboril finished with the assist and a plus-2 rating along with a shot on net and a registered hit while also playing a special teams role on both the power play and the penalty kill. Zboril is still working on the polish to his game that will eventually make him an effective pro, but he was noticeable in a good way in his first preseason action of the season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7 – the team-leading number of shot attempts for David Pastrnak in his first action of the preseason while skating with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Who is hard on the puck? Who is winning pucks? Who can keep their pace up? I think [the young forwards] are all capable of making plays, the young skilled guys. You can probably list seven or eight that have talent and could make NHL plays.” – Bruce Cassidy, on what he’s looking for out of B’s forward prospects that want to win NHL jobs.