Some Bruins still trying to find their bearings

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Some Bruins still trying to find their bearings

BOSTON -- While theres plenty to like about Bostons 3-0-1 start in their first four games, it hasnt been highlight reel goals and on-ice celebrations for everybody.

The Bruins third line is off to the slowest start of any of Bostons forward groups, and registered only a single shot on net in an ineffective performance for the Bs in their 4-2 win over the Isles at TD Garden.

Chris Bourque, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly have combined for two points, no goals and a minus-8 rating in the first four games of the season, and have been bailed out by the strong starts of some of their teammates.

Its perhaps not surprising given that Bourque is the only new forward thats been added to an already established group of 11 forwards, and that means adjusting to a player with different strengths and weaknesses than Jordan Caron or Benoit Pouliot. It's also worth nothing that the third line is still minding their responsibility defensively, which is job No. 1 for the trio.

For a guy like Kelly remaining defensively vigilant is job No. 1 for their line, but the Isles did manage to score a goal while their line was on the ice Friday night. Johnny Boychuk was largely responsible after losing track of the man with the puck behind the net, but a minus-2 rating for the season doesn't lie for a guy in Kelly that was a plus-33 last season.

I think were still working on it, said Kelly. I think every line is still working on it. Just when you think youve got it all figured out then youre in trouble. When youre playing with new linemates you want to go out there and start producing immediately with instant chemistry.

Sometimes that doesnt happen. In fact most times that doesnt happen. But I think weve been solid in our end and there have been a few chances. The offense will come if we stick with the game plan. Were a defense first team.

While Claude Julien thought Friday night was Bourques best game in a Bruins uniform, there was a clear admission that the line as a whole isnt playing at quite the level where theyll end up.

Its hard to make assessments because were in the fourth game of the season. I watch some games on TV, and you know I could be a lot more disappointed in situations Ive seen from other teams around the league, said Julien. But were hanging in there. We know its just a matter of time for certain guys to turn it around.

I think weve got enough players here to score some goals that are going to make us a better team along the way. When you look at Tyler Seguin, whos got zero goals, we know hes going to start scoring a lot more. Horts Nathan Horton and Peverleythose guys, theyll get it going. Youve just got to maybe show a little patience as far as the finishing touch is concerned. But as long as they work hard and are progressing you keep pushing them in the right direction.

Peverley hit the left post in the third period and seemed to get better as the game went along. Bourque showed some good things while moving around with purpose and creativity on the second power play unit and erased some Isles chances -- one in particular on Keith Aucoin when he was about to pounce on a rebound in the slot -- with responsible back-checking.

But its little more than flashes at this point for a third line still looking to find their footing this season while the other three lines seem to have the ground running.

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

BRIGHTON, Mass – Let’s start with the straight fact that it’s asinine, apologist drivel to let the Bruins off the hook, and perpetuate an off-the-mark myth there isn’t enough talent on the B's roster to be a playoff hockey team.

They are middle-of-the-road in the talent department to be sure, and the roster depth clearly isn’t what it was in their elite years, as the Bruins balance an aging core group with an influx of youthful talent from the next generation. But this is also a proud, talented group with one of the best all-around centers in the NHL in Patrice Bergeron, a former Norris Trophy winner and future Hall of Fame defenseman in Zdeno Chara, a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate and in-his-prime All-Star left winger in Brad Marchand, an emerging 20-year-old offensive superstar in David Pastrnak and a former Vezina Trophy winning goaltender still in his prime in Tuukka Rask.

That doesn’t even mention high-end players David Krejci, David Backes and Torey Krug that are game-changing talents in their own right.

Combine that with the other players on the Bruins roster and this is a team interspersed with proud Stanley Cup winning players and enough talent to still take care of business in the final eight games and punch their playoff ticket. Winning a Cup in 2011 can never be taken away from Chara, Krejci, Bergeron, Marchand, Rask and Adam McQuaid, and neither can the seven straight seasons in the playoffs under Claude Julien.

But there’s a danger now of some late-in-the-game tarnish on Black and Gold legacies for some of those distinguished, proud players if they once again collapse down the stretch this season and miss the playoffs for the third year in a row with a late-season nosedive. Four consecutive regulation losses have cast doubt into everything for the Bruins and roused all the same old uncomfortable questions from the past three years.

Bergeron and Marchand need to find their best games and dominate the way elite players do in big-game situations like Saturday night vs. the Isles. Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo and Frank Vatrano need to show they're ready for the playoffs.Rask needs to finally show he's ready to shine as a No. 1 goalie and lead his team to victory in a big game rather than buckle under weighty pressure. 

“This is their legacy, those guys. They are Stanley Cup champions and they missed last year. Each year we talk about writing our own story, and I believe that because guys come and go,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “But generally there is a core group of guys and it’s their legacy. I’m sure they want to reach the playoffs and get back to being a Stanley Cup contender every year.

“That’s what they want and to a man I’m sure they would tell you that. I do believe that they believe it’s different [this season]. Until you change the course of your results, those questions are going to come. We have to change the results to make then go away. One week of not getting results that we want doesn’t mean we’re panicking, but we do understand what’s at stake. We want to be playing in April and May.”

If the Bruins can’t pull out a win on Saturday night against the Islanders, who just pushed even with them at 82 points on the season, then their playoff lives will no longer be under their own control anymore. It will become another late-season choke job by a team that will have its character and courage questioned. The highs of six years ago will be matched by the bitter lows of the past three seasons.

People won’t talk about a scrappy, little underdog Bruins team that just couldn’t get over the hump once again. Instead, they’ll lament a formerly proud, tough-minded group of hockey players that somehow turned into NHL tomato cans all too willing to play the victim once the going got tough late in the regular season.

That’s no way to go out if you’ve ever had your name etched on Lord Stanley’s Cup, and the Bruins that know better should be taking that to heart right now.