Marchand, Lucic admit trouble tapping into playoff motivation

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Marchand, Lucic admit trouble tapping into playoff motivation

Its no stretch to say this years playoffs was a 180 degree turn backward for Bostons top offensive forwards after last years run to the Stanley Cup.

The only member of the top-six forwards playing close to the top of his game by the time the postseason arrived was Rich Peverley, who missed six weeks with a sprained knee injury. The rest of the Bruins that battled through an entire regular season didnt seem to have enough left in the gas tank after playing nearly 200 games in the last 17 months and over 200 if preseason games were included and that manifested itself in the playoffs.

Milan Lucic finished with zero goals in the seven-game series against the Washington Capitals, and couldnt consistently provide the menacing physicality that helped him lead the Bruins to a win in Game 3. David Krejci led the Bruins with 12 goals during last years run to the Cup, and finished with only a single goal against Washington while struggling mightily to generate offense.

Patrice Bergeron was hobbled by a torn oblique midway through the series against Washington, and Tyler Seguin battled through a left hand injury that will require surgery this summer.

Brad Marchand was another Bs player that couldnt maintain his Nose Face Killah edge for the entire playoff series he did last year while stirring it up against all of Bostons playoff opponents. Bs coach Claude Julien said that some players handled the mental challenge entering this years playoffs better than others, and make your own judgments based on the way some Bruins forwards performed.

Physically I think we were okay. There didnt seem to be any issues physically. I think mentally, some players handled the heavy workload over the last two years better than others over the course of the season and the short summer and everything else. Thats what happens with Stanley Cup teams, said Julien. I dont think it makes a player less valuable or less of a better player than others and everyone handles it differently. We had some guys that came back and were the same player they were the year before. We had some players that really struggled that way.

Marchand didnt disagree with his coach.

We didnt break out the way we can and the way we were hoping to, said Marchand. Thats going to make us more excited to come back next year and do a better job. They did a good job and they battled hard. You could tell they didnt want to give us any odd-man rushes and they were able to stick to that.

His best game happened after Claude Julien had dropped him to the fourth line in practice, and basically called him out for his lack of edge.

The edge and a higher level of effort returned, but he finished with one goal, two points and a minus-1 in seven games. Marchand also revealingly admitted that he had a difficult time getting an emotional edge heading into this years playoffs like the hungry, desperate tone that was set last year.

It played a part in it. We had a long year, a short schedule and another tough season again this year. It made it a challenge to get prepared this year, said Marchand. You dont notice it until after it happens. Youre obviously excited for the playoffs, but the hype of last year didnt really feel the same this year. But at some point you have to find a way to get yourself engaged and prepare for the game.

I learned about how I have to make sure I prepare. There are different ways to get up for games. When youre not as excited or able to get up for games like we were last year during the playoffs, it can be a little tough. You have to be mentally tough enough to be able to mentally prepare yourself. Its a tough job to mentally prepare yourself to play at a high level every night, but what you have to learn to do being a professional.

What Marchand is saying makes a lot of sense.

The Bruins arent the vintage Detroit Red Wings with a high-powered offense capable of dominating puck possession, and theyre not the Pittsburgh Penguins with star-powered special teams units. The Bruins are a blue collar team that needs to bring emotion, physicality, work ethic and maximum effort to the table in order to bring the swaggering intimidation that helped them win the Cup last season.

When they dont bring those qualities the Bruins become very ordinary, and thats exactly the way they looked against the Capitals.

Personally it gets that fire boiling inside again that youre not happy with what happened, and youre not happy with yourself, said Lucic. You want to do whatever you can to get yourself to the top. Sometimes you have to lose in order to win, and weve shown in the past that we had to lose before we were champions.

Maybe that was another case here? The best way to say it is that the last two years almost felt like one long season. It felt like a baseball season almost with almost having played 200 games in the last two years. Obviously you want to play for as long as you can, but this is an opportunity to get some rest and make the most of it.

The question that remains now for the Bruins: how much do the Bruins evaluate based on the belief that the forwards that struggled will bounce back fully, and how much of this years playoffs revealed potential scoring issues within the forward group.

Its no exaggeration to say the flagging performances of the Bs top forwards was the biggest reason the Bruins couldnt advance past the first round of the playoffs.

Its going to take a long, hard look in the mirror to figure out what best to do about it.

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while thinking about and praying for the people of Manchester, England. It’s obviously an evil, cowardly act to bomb any public place, but to do it at a concert filled with women and children is the lowest of the low.

*The Capitals players are acknowledging that there’s some kind of mental block with the Stanley Cup playoffs. CSN Mid-Atlantic has all the details.

*It’s been a very odd postseason for the NHL where there are so many non-traditional teams still alive with the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Fina, and the Ottawa Senators fighting for their lives in the Eastern Conference Final. On that note, there is a ton of disappointment at the empty seats at the Canadian Tire Centre for Ottawa’s home games in the playoffs. It sounds like there are going to be empty seats tonight for a do-or-die Game 6 in Ottawa. That is an embarrassment for a Canadian city that’s supposed to pride itself on their love of hockey. Let’s hope the Senators fans have a last-minute surge to buy tickets and show some appreciation for a Senators team that’s given the Ottawa fans a totally unexpected ride through the postseason this spring. I mean, Erik Karlsson at the top of his game is worth the price of admission all by himself.  

*The Pittsburgh Penguins have the Senators on the ropes, and it’s been an impressive showing given that they’re doing it without Kris Letang.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the ownership for the St. Louis Blues giving their GM Doug Armstrong a vote of confidence.

*Another early exit from the playoffs is going to start making some players expendable on the New York Rangers roster.

*Here’s a good piece on how David Poile built the Nashville Predators, who have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. Give credit where it’s due: He manned up and made a big move dealing away Shea Weber straight up for PK Subban. It’s really worked for Music City as they’ve stepped to the next level.

*Speaking of Nashville’s rise this spring in a wide open Western Conference, Pekka Rinne has silenced the critics he might have had by carrying his team to the Cup Final.

*For something completely different: Boston law enforcement is on high alert after the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in the UK.

 

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right.