Boston Bruins

Haggerty: Will this be a season of change for the Bruins?

Haggerty: Will this be a season of change for the Bruins?

BOSTON -- It’s looking like time for some serious smelling salts and a heater when it comes to the Boston Bruins.

Who knows? Maybe they can ask for those underneath the Christmas tree.

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The Bruins dropped their sixth game in eight tries on Tuesday by failing to show up against a New York Islanders team flailing its way through the season, falling behind 3-0 before ultimately losing 4-2. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand were both a minus-2 with a couple of train-wreck goals allowed in the first period, Tuukka Rask was pulled for the first time this year after giving up three goals on just 13 shots, and both Bruins special teams units were outplayed by a woebegone Isles outfit. Things finally kicked into high gear in the third period with two goals and 23 shots on net, but that only served to underscore how pathetic Boston’s game was during the first 40 minutes against a beatable opponent.

"It’s too late to start playing [in the third period] the way we should be playing for the full game," said Bergeron. "We got back in the game and that was a good third period. That being said, it was way too little too late. It’s really simple. You go back to playing your game and being ready from the drop of the puck.

"We talked about this last stretch before the [Christmas] break. It was three games [remaining], now it’s two, but it was three games that we wanted to get those points from. We needed to do the job and we didn’t do that tonight. We didn’t show up for the first two periods and we paid for it."

For all intents and purposes it looked like Boston’s best players weren’t ready to go when the puck was dropped, and that’s unforgivable for a Bruins team nearing full tailspin mode. The Bruins have allowed four goals in each of the six losses over this eight-game span, which speaks to the defensive deficiencies. On offense, they're averaging 2.29 goals per game this season -- 26th in the 30-team league -- despite racking up gaudy, Corsi-friendly shot totals because, with an offense overloaded with playmaking centers but short on true wingers who can play heavy and finish off plays in the danger areas, they don’t fight to get close to the net.

While it’s true the Bruins are still in a playoff spot, it’s a precarious position: Just two points ahead of the significantly underachieving Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers.Their flaws have been masked by the brilliance of Rask and David Pastrnak (still second in the NHL in goals scored despite having missed seven games and counting), so on nights like Tuesday -- when Rask is bad and Pastrnak is missing -- the weaknesses are clear for all to see.

And going through the motions -- as they did at the start of Tuesday night's game -- shouldn’t be an option.

Claude Julien picked up on that after watching Marchand and Rask smash into each other playing the puck behind the Boston net in the first period, and thereby setting the game’s tone by giving up an easy goal to Anders Lee. It snowballed from there and it looked to Julien like the Bruins simply weren’t ready to play..

“What you saw in the third period, I don’t know why we don’t bring that in the first," he said. "We wait until we’re in a hole, and the desperation, and I guess our work ethic and our compete level, should be that at the first. Not in the third, when you’re down 3-0. So somehow we’ve got to find that. It’s not good enough, and we know that we struggle to score goals. Let’s be ready to play, and the way we gave up goals tonight, it didn’t look to me like we were ready to play.”

We can assure Julien it didn’t look that way to the 17,565 in attendance, either, and it looks like this flawed, half-hearted bunch needs a jolt to snap out of it.

Some of that will come when Pastrnak returns from his surprise elbow procedure. But one has to wonder if the Bruins are also mulling a coaching change at this point.

There are far too many key players who have underperformed in the first three months of the season, and there was no excuse for not being ready to play last night. The power play has been an unmitigated disaster, and it took the coaching staff months before finally installing Pastrnak on the top PP unit just prior to his elbow procedure. All of these things can be filed under the heading of the coach’s responsibility, and anybody looking at it objectively would be hard-pressed to say Julien has gotten the most out of all his players this year.

If the Bruins falter in these last two road games in Florida and Carolina heading into the holiday break, one has to wonder if there will be a lump of coal and perhaps a pink slip in Julien’s stocking this year.

It’s one of the few cards left to be played by Don Sweeney and Cam Neely to spark a stagnant hockey club, and it would make sense given the urgency that all levels of B’s upper management should be feeling after missing the playoffs in each of the last two years. It might not be fair in the grand scheme of things, but one has to wonder if Tuesday night’s half-hearted loss to New York could be a warning sign that a change behind the bench is approaching on Causeway Street. 

Beleskey happy to return from foot injury

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Beleskey happy to return from foot injury

BRIGHTON, Mass – It was absolutely an “uh-oh” moment for Matt Beleskey when he was hit on the foot with a shot Monday night in the Bruins' preseason opener against the Canadiens. Beleskey, 29, was just hoping that his foot wasn’t broken in what would have been another shot of bad luck coming off a tough season for the hard-nosed winger, so his hopes have been answered given his presence in the lineup for the preseason game Saturday night vs. the Detroit Red Wings.

Beleskey missed the past two preseason games and most of the practice time as well but returned to the ice on Friday before getting ready for tonight's game. With plenty to prove while coming off a down second season in Boston, Beleskey knows he needs a strong camp that can’t get derailed by injuries or assorted bumps and bruises.

“I definitely did not want a broken foot to start the year, so I’m glad that I was fine,” said Beleskey, who finished with three goals and eight points along with a minus-10 in 49 games last season. “I took a puck in the face during warm-ups and the shot to the foot in the third, so that’s quite a good start to the year. But hopefully, I’ve got those out of the way now.

“I felt really good in the last game. It was great to see some of the work I did in the summertime paying off, so now we build on that [against Detroit] and keep things moving. There are a lot of great players here [in camp] and there’s great competition. I’m just here to play my game and prove myself, and I’ve got all the confidence in the world I can do that.”

Now that he’s been given a full bill of health again, Beleskey will get just that chance skating with Sean Kuraly and Ryan Fitzgerald on Saturday night in Hockeytown amid a deeply competitive situation for Boston’s third line. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings for the Bruins against the Red Wings in Boston’s fourth game of the preseason:

DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak
Vatrano-Czarnik-Purcell
Beleskey-Kuraly-Fitzgerald
Schaller-Szwarz-Senyshyn

Miller-McAvoy
Grzelcyk-McQuaid
O’Gara-Zboril

McIntyre
Subban


 

Morning Skate: Sean Avery vs. Tortorella

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Morning Skate: Sean Avery vs. Tortorella

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while amazed at what has united Lebron James and Steph Curry in this wacky country of ours.

*Sean Avery has some brutal things to say about John Tortorella in his new “screaming for attention” book, but then again Avery is one of the biggest low-talent dirtbags that the NHL has ever seen. So you probably need to consider the source.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) John Shannon has a few thoughts on where the NHL needs to go in their relationship with China now that they’ve played preseason games there.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the details as Steven Stamkos stood out in his preseason debut and the first game back from last season’s injury.

*The NHL has yet to determine whether or not Marian Hossa is eligible for LTIR with a skin issue that is expected to be career-ending.

*PK Subban talks about his rule of thumb while staying away from controversy with an active social media account.

*Mark your calendars for the annual Comics Come Home event on Nov. 18 to raise money for the Cam Neely Foundation. Here Neely talks with SI about his friendships with a number of local comics, and how the comedy event became a tradition in Boston.   

*For something completely different: Today marks the 40th anniversary of David Bowie’s classic “Heroes”, so it feels like a good time to get the story behind it.