Morning Skate 32: A deeper look at the B's

Morning Skate 32: A deeper look at the B's

By Joe Haggerty

BOSTON Happened upon an interesting Twitter conversation this morningwith uber-hockey columnist Justin Bourne, who pops up on Yahoo! Sports, The Hockey News, USA Today and many other fine publications with his bang-on and amusing hockey observations.I was throwing out the scenario that the Eastern Conference was wide open for the taking with the situations developingon many other contending teams around the Bruins. I say "wide open" in the sense that its anybodys playoffs, with each team harboring at least one major weakness and a playoffpath could be open for a long, bountiful run like the one undertaken by the surprising Montreal Canadiens last spring.I say wide open with the full-well notion that the Flyers have a monstrous positional player roster with some very suspect goaltending until proven otherwise. The Penguins have no Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, and no shot without both of them working together as a duo. The Capitals have been a mess all year, have choked in the playoffs multiple times and were looking at Bs castoffs like Dennis Wideman and Marco Sturm as part of the solution. Color me not impressed after they needed 26 minutes out of Wideman in his first night suiting up for them.The Tampa Bay Lightning have a young team in playoff terms with little real experience beyond Marty St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier and Dwayne Roloson.Beyond those five teams (including the Bruins), its a mess of mediocrity in the East.The one thing that Boston has over every single other team: the best goaltender in the NHL (who's also motivated to see how good he can be as the candle begins flickeringat 36 years old) and a great deal of impressive depth fortified by the deals for Tomas Kaberle, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly.The Bs are top five in goals for, top five in goals against, the best team in the NHL in the third period and boast a physical edge with good size and strength. The one thing they dont have: a game-breaking scorer. Its the point smartly brought up by Bourne in the conversation, and its altogether true.There is no CrosbyMalkin, ZetterbergDatsyuk, ToewsKane on the Bruins, and thats the hurdle Boston will have to clear in any manner of Stanley Cup run. It could certainly be done, but itll be in a different way of winning (Charlie Sheen trademarked)than weve seen out of the last handful of Stanley Cup champions, dating back to the Carolina Hurricanes.What the Bruins dohave is the right combination of depth, physical, hard-nosed players with the right amount of skill -- and emerging young players that could both surprise and wear down opponents in the playoffs. Just ask the Canucks or Flames if you're looking for testimonials.Either way its going to be fascinating to watch in the conference with a ton of parity among the top five seedsOn to the links: Heres FOH (Friend of Haggs) Justin Bourne on his eponymous blog dissecting the Bruins with 19 games to go in the season, and liking what he sees. Elliotte Friedmans always anticipated and always celebrated 30 thoughts for the week including some reasons for the dud of a trade deadline. Mike Milbury on NBCs Pro Hockey Talk choosing the winners and losers at the trade deadline, and certainly insulting someone in the process. A good look at the Bemidji State hockey program for all of my Minnesota readers out there. Do I have any Minnesota readers? Guess well find out. Michael Russo with an excellent piece on the Nystrom brothers, and their hockey legacy. On Frozen Blog gives us a peek at the Washington Capitals and some fresh now things hes seeing from the Caps in a largely stale hockey season. Dustin Penner likes what hes of the Los Angeles Kings, and in theory he should be a nice fit as a big-bodied forward to pair with Anze Kopitar. A double-dose of Elliotte Friedman this week as Ive also included a fascination sleep study that some NHL teams are enrolling in, and the results that could change plenty within the game of hockey.Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Krug: Bruins collapse 'is not going to happen this year'

Krug: Bruins collapse 'is not going to happen this year'

BOSTON – Having lost three games in a row for the first time under Bruce Cassidy at time of year when you can’t drop into losing streaks, Bruins fans clearly want some sense of surety when it comes to the B’s making the playoffs.

Well, they got an ironclad guarantee from Torey Krug after he was the best B’s player on the ice in a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden. Krug has been a part of the teams that collapsed in each of the past two seasons and the puck-moving defenseman said things are going to be different this time around with nine games to go.

“I haven’t thought about it, I haven’t talked about it. It’s a different feeling this year. [A collapse] is not going to happen this year. I know we’ve got a lot of pride in this room,” said Krug, who elevated his game and scored on a nifty, Bobby Orr-esque one-man rush up the ice in the third period. He also had a team-high seven shots on net and led the B’s in ice time in the loss. “The guys that have been through it. There’s no other option except making sure we stay on course and take care and do our jobs.

“You feel like you played pretty well and things didn’t go your way. You make a big mistake and it cost you. You got to realize what’s done is done, and we have an important task on Thursday [vs. the Lightning]. We’ve got to come to the rink with no other option except winning that game. That’s the mindset we’ve got to have.”

The Black and Gold are still in a pretty good position when it comes to the playoffs, even if their lead over Toronto in the Atlantic Division is precarious right now. But it ultimately comes down to Boston summoning against Tampa Bay and the Islanders what they didn’t, or couldn’t, against Toronto and Ottawa, and making good on Krug’s defiant words following a bitter defeat. 


Bruins hope familiar lack of finish isn't cropping up again

Bruins hope familiar lack of finish isn't cropping up again

BOSTON – Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Bruins outshot an opponent, lost and then lamented their lack of finish on a bevy of scoring plays while begrudgingly tipping their hats to a hot goaltender.

It was the scenario for many disappointing losses in the first 55 games of the season under Claude Julien, and it was a little too eerily reminiscent in a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden on Tuesday night. 

Certainly it’s just one game and there has been far too much good as of late to believe the Bruins are cannon-balling into a pool of previous bad habits. But giving up a goal in the second period while watching Craig Anderson make 18 second-period saves at the other end of the ice was a stark reminder of the bad old days.

“We struggled up in Ottawa getting through [the neutral zone], tonight I thought we did a better job,” said Torey Krug. “A win against that system is just getting the puck behind them and going in on the fore-check. We’ll take that every time. We did well, but we’ve got to find a way to get more goals on the scoreboard.”

Certainly there some stellar saves: A flashy glove hand on a Noel Acciari backhander from the slot and a couple of stops on Frank Vatrano in tight around the net come to mind. But there were also some light, perimeter play kind of nights from Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak where the turnovers (a combined eight giveaways between the two forwards) and loose play were coming fast and furious.

That’s the stuff that needs to improve after watching Ottawa score on three redirections with bodies camped in front of the net.

“There are some,” admitted Bruce Cassidy when asked about parallels to some darker days earlier in the season. “Some of it you have to give credit to the goaltender you’re playing. Look at his numbers, he’s been very good. I’m not going to look too far back. I think we had good looks off the rush – he [Craig Anderson] made saves. We did have our D come late, get a couple of good looks, and that’s something we’ve really worked on. We had a D join and score. That was actually a nice individual score. So, those parts of our game, I think, it just ebbs and flows over the course of the year where you run into hot goaltending and you have to stay with it.

“That’s when you have to keep the puck out of your net. [In Toronto], we were right there until two minutes to go where even though we weren’t scoring, we were in a position to get points. [Against the Senators] it was a breakdown right after we scored, so I think the focus has to be when you’re having tough luck around the net, you need to get points. And maybe these games end up 1-1, 2-2, they’re going into shootouts or overtime and you accumulate your points that way. I think that’s where the last two games have been disappointing. You know, we should have had points. It may not have been wins, but we should have been there at the end and playing 65 minutes, or whatever it took to finish it.”

The silver lining, of course, is that the Bruins didn't get bogged down in Guy Boucher's 1-3-1 trap and were able to dictate play a bit more while never actually leading in the game. But that does little good when won-loss results and points in the coffers are all that matters in the final weeks. 

Perhaps some of the offensive scale-back in the past few games has been by design after letting up seven goals to Edmonton in the Western Canada road finale, but it’s also about being tougher and more determined around the net.

Ottawa won that net-front battle on Tuesday night and subsequently won the hockey game, so it’s time for the Bruins to do that exact thing if they want better results vs. the Lightning and Islanders later this week.